I have very recently passed a significant birthday milestone that is greater than 40 but less than 60.
Age brings with it a certain degree of circumspection, and a licensing issue that has remained constant since 2005 when the Licensing Act came into force is that of licensed plans. I suspect the problems with plans attached to licences will continue well after I have (hopefully) received my telegram from the relevant monarch at the time.
Changes may be needed
Licensed plans are a bit of an unexploded bomb. The Licensing Act and regulations require plans showing the layout of the premises are attached to the licence.
There are certain requirements for the contents of these plans. For example, a key, if necessary, showing where licensable activities take place, any kitchens, toilets, fire exits and items of furniture that may impact upon individuals’ ability to use escape routes.
Equally, there are, of course, several ways in which you can update your plans if the current layout changes. If it is a significant change you may have to issue a full variation application with public consultation and quite possibly a significant council fee, together with advertising in a newspaper. If the change is minor, and many are, then a minor variation can be issued with a shorter consultation period and an £89 fee to the licensing authority.
If you are really lucky, you may have a licensing officer at the council who is prepared to simply ‘swap’ your new plans for your old ones in what is commonly called an ‘informal’ variation. The problem here is not so much the system (which is so often otherwise at fault) but human nature. With contracts, building regulations, planning approval, quotes from builders and architects’ drawings, it is quite possible to forget the licensing implications. The problem, of course, is that the Licensing Act has teeth. Licensed plans form part of the licence – they are an integral part of your authorisation to carry out licensable activities, in other words, to trade.
Licensing authorities take differing views on non-compliance. Some will take a pragmatic view if the breach is minor (for example, some fixed seating not shown), others not so. Neither pragmatic nor pedantic licensing officers can allow you to sell alcohol from a first-floor function room that is completely missing from your licensed plans.
So check your licence plans are up to date, and if, like some operators you can’t find them, even more reason to make some tentative enquiries with the licensing authority. It’s not worth the gamble when there is a risk to trade.