Advice: Licence threats after noise complaints

By Poppleston Allen

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Premises licence License Officer 12 months

Advice: Licence threats after noise complaints
This week's legal Q&A includes advice on threats to licences following noise complaints and fights of premises.

Threat to licence after noise complaints

Q: I run a hotel which is fully licensed and also incorporates an external courtyard, which we sometimes use for functions. Normally these functions are low key with a small acoustic arrangement or pianist playing in the background while guests drink Champagne and enjoy canapés. I recently held a birthday party and the organisers brought a DJ and a small sound system. There were a number of complaints from residents and an environmental health officer served a noise abatement notice and is threatening to review my premises licence. What can I do?

A: The first thing is to take some advice on whether or not you should appeal against the notice — you only have 21 days from the date of service of the notice in which to do so.

Although you can appeal by sending in a letter explaining your reasons, it is probably better to have a lawyer prepare the appeal if there are any good grounds for the appeal.

The area of law is a technical one but, at the very least, appealing the notice may protect you from prosecution in the short term, should you breach it, and provide you with leverage in negotiations with the officer as to a longer term solution.

You may decide that if you have had no complaints from your normal events within the courtyard there is very little risk going forward as long as you do not run a similar event again to the one that caused the problem. The abatement notice would remain in place if you do not appeal but you could write to the authority after six or 12 months and ask them to confirm that they will no longer be taking any action under it due to the lack of complaints in the meantime.

A review of the premises licence is always possible where there are residential complaints either at the behest of the residents or the officer, but good communication with both parties and explaining what went wrong and that it will not happen again should be sufficient to deflect a review at this stage.

Fights at premises

Q: I run a town centre bar and had a couple of fights break out on weekend evenings. The police have been called and the officers who have attended have always been reassuring in terms of the way that we have handled the situation. The police licensing officer has been in touch and questioned the levels of intoxication of some of the patrons within the premises. He thinks that may have contributed to the fights. He is threatening to prosecute me. Is this possible?

A: It is an offence under the Licensing Act 2003 to sell alcohol to someone who is drunk therefore a prosecution would only seem possible if there is actual evidence of a sale taking place. The difficulty is that the assessment as to whether someone is drunk is subjective.

The real risk here would be one of a review of the premises licence so you should take on board any suggestions the police make to avoid further action.

Related topics Licensing law

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