While notionally a rather dry document, the guidance is an important part of the decision-making hierarchy for licensing authorities, police and environmental health officers, among others. The guidance is an official document which aids interpretation of the relevant legislation, and all licensing authorities must have regard to it or, in extremely rare cases where they do not, must give reasons why.
In short, it’s an important document that puts meat on the bone of the legislation and while there is nothing hugely radical in this particular revision there are a few nuggets worth mentioning:
- TENs – In response to concerns the statutory limits (499 people including staff and performers) were being abused, particularly in open fields or other outside areas, the guidance says the premises user should provide a clear description of the area in which they propose to carry on licensable activities, including whether the premises are, for example, an open field or a beer tent. This does not stop you applying for a TEN for a beer tent with a capacity of 499 but at an event involving 5,000 people, only that a clear description of the ‘TEN premises”’ is provided so authorities can raise objections if necessary.
- The guidance goes on to say that in cases where there is reason to doubt the numbers will remain within the permitted limit, the premises user should make clear the nature of the event and how they will ensurethose numbers will not be exceeded, for example, by using door staff to be employed with counters.
- Beer gardens – The guidance clarifies that in scenarios where drink orders are taken by a member of staff in the garden or outdoor space and a staff member then collects the drinks from the licensed premises, the sale takes place at the bar (where the alcohol is appropriated in the contract) rather than in the beer garden.
- Police representations – The previous guidance had a small but significant paragraph which stated that the licensing authority should accept all reasonable and proportionate representations made by the police unless the authority has evidence that to do so would not be appropriate. This led to situations where evidence produced by the police was being accepted simply because it had come from them – not the perfect approach in a democracy. This paragraph has now been replaced with more balanced wording which does not elevate the police or any other authority’s evidence above others.
There are other changes too, on cumulative impact assessments, interim steps in expedited reviews, and other minor changes. A copy of the revised guidance can be found on the gov.uk website.