Legal advice

How to ensure a minor variation in a licence is successful

By Poppleston Allen

- Last updated on GMT

How to ensure a minor variation in a licence is successful

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This week's legal Q&A focuses on ensuring a minor variation application is successful.

Q. I recently issued a minor variation application to remove a condition from my premises licence. The licensing authority has advised the application was unsuccessful because of a representation received from one of the responsible authorities. They have advised I speak with a solicitor. What are my options?

A. The minor variation application was an excellent innovation to simplify the application process where there was minimal change proposed to the premises licence or club premises certificate.

The licensing authority and responsible authorities do, however, have an underlying responsibility to ensure that any changes requested do not compromise the promotion of the four licensing objectives. Some commentary about the effect of the change proposed on the promotion of the four licensing objectives is mandatory, and should be part of the consideration during the preparation of the application.

Having said the minor variation is an excellent tool, it is also rather blunt. It almost requires a crystal ball to ensure all responsible authorities will be comfortable with its content. Agreement with, for example, the police to remove conditions may not meet with the agreement of the environmental health officer.

Requests made on minor applications, which are deemed to be in any way controversial, will need to be thought through prior to their issue. The process almost requires that you risk-assess the process, determine what you wish to achieve, and consider the additional barriers created and controls required for the proposal.

For example, use of a premises during the day by underage persons accompanied by adults, will almost certainly require that you ensure that all bar staff have received additional training on age-related issues, notwithstanding the training that they would normally have had for a premises that only allows persons over 18 into it in the evening economy.

While the response from the licensing authority to a minor variation must be within five working days of the end of the consultation period of 10 working days, the total period of the application often takes three weeks. With a full variation, which will generally cost more that the fixed £89 fee for a minor variation, some negotiation about the proposal, if it is in any way controversial, can usually be achieved during the [28-day] representation period.

The recommendation to talk to a solicitor will probably identify the issues and which application is appropriate. A full variation with consideration of the issues, and added conditions that demonstrate you have considered the four licensing objectives, is more likely to succeed. A minor variation fee can be partially used to offset the fee for the full variation.

The minor variation is a great innovation but can be a false economy in some circumstances, and can lead to a delay of three weeks if the application is refused, rather than providing any certainty that the requested changes will be available to you at the end of that period.

Related topics Licensing law

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