Legal Q&A: one glass too many

By Poppleston Allen

- Last updated on GMT

One glass too many: Even one glass related incident can warrant attention from police
One glass too many: Even one glass related incident can warrant attention from police
This legal Q&A takes a look at the impact of a police request for a venue to switch from glass to polycarbonate drinking vessels, and the ins and outs of transforming a site from a restaurant operation to a bar.

One glass too many

Q: ​I operate a late-night bar/nightclub in a historic market town. I invested heavily in the premises a couple of years ago to convert it from a typical nightclub model to a high-end wine bar with a high-quality food offer. I retained the late-night element as there remained a demand. But it became clear the demand for food was not going to justify its overheads. That aspect has mostly ground to a halt. It has reverted to more of a nightclub and unfortunately, we have had a number of incidents at the premises including a couple of glassings. The police are asking that I confirm I will switch to polycarbonate drinking vessels. I am concerned about the effect on trade – what should I do?

A: ​You are in a slightly difficult position. If you have had even one glass-related incident that can be sufficient for this sort of request from the police.

It is important to realise that, from the police perspective, they are trying to make sure they have taken steps to protect members of the public from potential injury. The police are more media-focused these days and will be concerned that if there is a further glass-related injury then they will be criticised for not taking appropriate action against you as a business.

If you do not agree to their request then it will always be open to them to seek a review of your premises licence. That is a costly process and puts the business under pressure to make sure it has no incidents as the review hearing approaches. It would seem highly likely that the licensing committee would be persuaded to impose such a restriction by way of a condition even if you have not voluntarily accepted it.

Your best plan may be to agree to use polycarbonates with a caveat that the position will be reviewed in six months’ time, but I do advise you to seek legal advice.

Restaurant to bar operation

Q: ​I have just acquired a restaurant on the high street of my local town from a previous operator. His business failed because there are a number of restaurants in the town centre and not enough customers to sustain them all. There are also a small number of bars that seem to be trading very well. I am therefore interested in turning this into a bar operation and perhaps extending my hours until 2am. The restaurant always closed by midnight. I have spoken to the licensing officer and he has told me there is a cumulative impact policy (CIP) in place. I am not sure what this is exactly but he seems to think it will make my application very difficult. Is that correct?

A:​ Licensing authorities can adopt a CIP with regards to a particular area of their jurisdiction if they are satisfied by evidence provided by police or local residents that there is significant public nuisance or crime and disorder associated with the combination of the existing licensed premises in the area. The CIP normally carries a presumption that any new licensing applications will be refused and also variations of existing ones where there
will be an increase in hours
or capacity.

The difficulty here is that most such policies will welcome the arrival of new restaurants but are less keen on ‘alcohol-led’ premises where it is felt most problems arise.

You would undoubtedly have to satisfy the authorities in the first place and possibly the licensing committee that your application would not add to the existing problems experienced or would, in fact, improve the situation. That is a high hurdle to navigate.

As a bare minimum, you would need to seek to have the police on side with your application and also any relevant local residents who may seek to have a voice. It is unlikely to be easy!

Related topics: Licensing law

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