Small administrative changes and designated premises supervisor variations have their own straightforward processes. Any other changes, for example, to the hours, activities, conditions or plans attached to the licence are likely to require an application.
Before 2009, slight licence changes could be dealt with informally. More significant changes required a variation (referred to as a ‘full’ or a ‘major’ variation — here I will use the term ‘full variation’). These require a notice on the premises for the 28-day consultation period, an advert in the paper and attract a council fee ranging from £100 to £1,905.
In 2009, a new ‘minor variation’ procedure was introduced. The purpose was to allow uncontentious licence changes to be processed quickly and cheaply. The fee is £89, there is a shorter consultation period, fewer consultees and no newspaper advert required. With minor variations, the decision rests with the licensing authority. If it thinks the application will not adversely affect the licensing objectives, it must grant it. Otherwise, it must refuse it.
Deciding whether the changes you are planning should be a minor or a full variation can be a delicate matter. On one hand, the minor variation procedure can save time and expense. However, if it is rejected and you submit a full variation, you will have to wait even longer for the changes to be dealt with and incur further costs than if you had submitted a full variation in the first place. Here is some guidance to help you, but, if in any doubt, take legal advice.
The minor variation process is useful for dealing with minor changes to the layout of the premises, small adjustments to hours, the removal of outdated, unenforceable or irrelevant conditions, the addition of conditions and the addition (or removal) of certain licensable activities.
The minor variation procedure cannot be used to make any significant changes to the premises licence, add or extend the sale of alcohol or extend a time limited licence.
A full variation may be required if, for example, the changes will increase the capacity for drinking on the premises, affect access or impede any noise reduction measures.
If the police and environmental health have concerns about proposals that cannot be resolved, it will object to the application. If you have submitted a minor variation, the licensing authority will consider any representations and if it thinks the application could adversely affect the licensing objectives it must refuse it.
If you have submitted a full variation that receives representations, the licensing committee will make the decision.
Certain licensable activities, in-cluding live and recorded music, have been de-regulated and you might want to first consider whether you can benefit from this before proceeding with a formal application.
If you have submitted a minor variation and have not received a decision from the licensing authority within 15 working days, the application is deemed refused and the authority must return your fee (unless you agree to put the fee towards a new minor variation application).