The latest trend among web entrepreneurs in France (although it cannot be far from crossing the English Channel) is to put the public in touch with ‘home chefs’. This has led to the Paris Restaurateurs Union asking the French government to legally curb the phenomenon.
But what are the legal implications in licensing terms of setting up a business as a chef cooking for people from your home? It is akin to running a bed and breakfast, where you open up your home for the public to come in and enjoy your hospitality.
If you are providing either hot food or hot drinks after 11pm to your guests, or selling alcohol to them, then authorisation under the Licensing Act would be needed to cover the house where chefs are entertaining.
It is not sufficient to argue that alcohol is not on sale simply because it is being provided as part of an all-inclusive price for the meal and drinks during the whole evening. Part of the cost for the evening’s entertainment would have undoubtedly have gone towards paying for the alcohol, so any authorisation would need to cover the sale of that alcohol and, if the entertaining is going on beyond 11pm, even if it is the provision of a latte after 11pm, for late-night refreshment as well.
This throws up some practicalities. Assuming a home chef is catering for guests on more than 12 occasions (it will be 15 next year), rather than selling alcohol and providing late-night refreshment under a temporary event notice, an application would be needed for a premises licence.
This would then necessitate the home chef putting a public notice outside their house and explaining why they need a licence for their house to their neighbours. The normal process for applying for a licence would need to be followed, and it could mean that the authorities, as part of the licensing process, could ask to carry out a visit to the home chef’s house to look at how the grant of any application may impact on the licensing objectives.
You can imagine it now, the authorities pulling out their standard conditions and starting to request door staff on duty, a refusals log and CCTV! But, on a serious note, residents could object on the basis of people leaving a house in their proximity late in the evening, having enjoyed the hospitality of the home chef. What about smoking? People would need to go outside to enjoy a cigarette, when the next door neighbour could have been in bed for a couple of hours.
It would also be open for the police and licensing authority to come into the premises at any time to carry out an inspection, if they believed that there was a breach of the Licensing Act 2003.
Once a premises licence is in force, of course, then all of the normal legal obligations go with it, including ensuring those coming to your house and drinking alcohol are not underage, and are not intoxicated when served with alcohol. The home chef would need to have a designated premises supervisor, holding a personal licence.
Free tap water would have to be available, and wine would have to be available in prescribed measures. In all likelihood, the various oddities of the Licencing Act 2003 are going to catch these home chefs unaware.
One can only imagine a neighbour, somewhat upset at the comings and goings to a home chef’s house, deciding to apply for a review of the premises licence.
Quite separately from licensing law, the planning officer may have some questions to ask, depending on the frequency of use of the house.
The home chef would also need to ensure that he was complying with all the relevant legislation surrounding health and safety and food safety, including allergens. He’d also want to review his public insurance policy as well as calculating his liability under the various mind-boggling tariffs imposed by recorded music guardians PRS and PPL.
So, all may not be as simple as those people who want to open their home up to their guests may think. In order to avoid the necessity of applying for a premises licence, it would have to be a case of bring your own bottle, and dessert (and coffee) served by 11pm.
While the Paris Restaurateurs Union is voicing its concerns in true Gallic style, across the Channel it is also not quite as simple as opening up your house and charging a nice fee for a meal.