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Changes to late-night refreshment rules

By Poppleston Allen

- Last updated on GMT

Changes to late-night refreshment rules

Related tags: License, Hotspot

If you have ever made a licence application within a cumulative impact zone, you would be forgiven for thinking that your local takeaway has one of the highest crime rates in your area.

Almost all cumulative impact policies reference crime in premises serving late-night refreshment (LNR) and it is always a hot topic at a hearing before a licensing sub-committee.

Therefore, you may be surprised to learn that the Deregulation Act 2015, which has made various changes to legislation across all areas including alcohol, sport and entertainment, has now turned its attention to deregulating LNR.

The Government has deemed that the decision to exempt supplies of LNR are best made with local knowledge and, therefore, the licensing authorities now have the ability to exempt certain premises if they think it would be helpful to the business and where there are no issues with crime and disorder associated with the night-time economy.

The question is how significantly will this positively impact the trade and can we be certain that our high streets and late-night economy areas are not going to turn into crime and disorder hot spots once the pubs and clubs close their doors?

The legislation

The powers that have been brought into effect allow the licensing authority to exempt the supply of LNR if it takes place:

  • On or from premises that are wholly situated in a designated area
  • On or from premises that are of a designated description
  • During a designated period (beginning no earlier than 11pm and ending no later than 5am)

The exemption categories for premises of a ‘designated description’ include motorway service areas, premises used for the retailing of petrol or diesel, premises that are already licensed for the sale of alcohol for consumption on the premises between 11pm and 5am, school and local authority premises where no more than 500 people are present (non-domestic premises) and community premises and hospitals — provided that they comply with certain requirements.

What does it all mean?

The Government recognises that the safeguards surrounding LNR, which were implemented as a result of the Licensing Act 2003 may need to be in place for a town or city centre take-away but do not necessarily need to apply to a similar premises in a different location.

The new powers may raise questions as to how much they will actually reduce bureaucracy, especially since the Government is clearly shaping future licensing policy around the sale of alcohol.

For example, the exemptions above include premises already licensed for the sale of alcohol for consumption on the premises between 11pm and 5am because they already require a licence for the sale of alcohol in any event and are, therefore, already carrying out regulated activities. It could be argued that if there is the requirement for a licence for the sale of alcohol then there is not really any benefit from exempting LNR.

Further considerations are that, although licensing authorities may choose to exempt certain premises in order to reduce their workload, they must, of course, launch a consultation before bringing any measures into effect, which involves time and costs of organising the consultation and ultimately amending the authority’s statement of licensing policy.

The powers to deregulate LNR span a wide range of businesses and, clearly, motorway service areas or petrol stations (those that qualify for a premises licence) are a very different type of business than takeaways or late-night cafés in that they have a primary purpose of something other than the sale of hot food and hot drinks. The traditional takeaway located in the middle of or very close to a late-night hot spot will generally not benefit from these exemptions.

The supporters of such deregulation would probably argue that pubs serving hot food and drinks post 11pm, albeit that they are few and far between, will benefit and these powers are a further step in the right direction towards removing another level of bureaucracy, which the trade has argued, during the years, has become too burdensome.

How could I benefit?

If your licensing authority decides to allow exemptions and your premises are able to benefit, you could save a considerable amount of money.

For example, if your premises licence only authorises LNR, you would not have to pay the annual fee in respect of that premises licence and any LNR-related conditions would no longer apply. However, for the vast majority who have alcohol licences, I anticipate little change.

Related topics: Licensing law

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