He has a large beer garden at the back of his pub that he wanted to redevelop and, while the work was being done, he wanted people who wished to drink or smoke outside to be able to use the wide pavement area at the front of the premises.
However, on calling his local licensing officer, he was told that not only does his premises licence not allow off-sales (so people cannot take their drinks out the front), but the area is a public highway and he cannot put any furniture there without the appropriate permissions. The builders are due to start in a week and his licensing officer has told him there is no way he will be able to get the permissions he needs for at least three months, if at all, so what does he do?
One of the most common questions we receive is how long getting the right licensing permissions will take, and understandably so. An extensive refurbishment, for example, can involve many different people and processes, all adding to the potential for delay.
Some licensing applications have fixed time limits set by law, for example, the 28-day consultation period for a new premises licence or major variation application. Other time limits are set, but not absolute. If a new premises licence application has to be determined at a hearing, for example, that hearing should be within 20 working days of the end of the consultation period. However, it is perfectly possible for the hearing to be adjourned until much later.
Some applications have no specified time limit at all. For example, if you wish to obtain a pavement licence, allowing you to put furniture on the public highway, the process can vary from council to council; one licensee might have to complete a formal application and wait more than a month for it to be processed while his neighbour, two miles away under a different council could have his tables and chairs out within a week. There are other matters, such as planning, which may also have to be dealt with and which can take a considerable amount of time.
There are myriad other factors that can prolong the application procedure. Taking the time before submission to discuss the application with the responsible authorities can flush out many problems that would otherwise occur during the consultation period. For example, if you agree conditions with the environmental health officer to deal with any potential noise nuisance then these can be included in the application.
It will delay submission but could give the application a greater chance of being granted at the end of the consultation period. However, despite your best efforts, you could still receive a single representation from a resident who will not budge, meaning the application has to be determined by the council’s licensing committee and, as we have seen, there is no guarantee when that will be.
What then, if you don’t get the result you want and you — or even the angry resident — appeal the decision? It could be months before you have any certainty.
You also need to allow time for all the supporting information to be prepared: consent forms may need to be signed, plans drawn up, which then have to be amended, and amended again (the regulations are very specific as to what needs to be shown). If you decide to meet with the authorities or your neighbours before submitting an application you may need to allow time to do so and to amend your proposals.
Even one-off events need careful planning. A couple of police authorities have recently indicated that they wish to be consulted before temporary event notices (TENs) are submitted, adding delay to what should be a fairly quick and simple process. Indeed, the police and environmental health have a right to veto late TENs and, if you leave it too late, you may find you are not able to sell alcohol or have any regulated entertainment during your event.
So what happened to our friend with his beer garden? He weighed up his options and had to make some changes to his plans but his customers are now happily enjoying a beautifully landscaped garden — or at least they will be when the weather warms up.