Every local authority’s licensing department is required under the Licensing Act 2003 to have a licensing policy that gives guidance as to how the licensing department will deal with determining applications and other licensing matters. The act also requires licensing authorities to review that licensing policy at least every five years. Any proposed changes result in a consultation exercise.
I have recently reviewed a particular council’s draft amended licensing policy during the consultation period and what is clear, is that councils are mounting pressure on operators by using their licensing policy as a tool not to support but to restrict the trade.
Operators are not only facing the burden of higher business rates, rents, duty and the uncertainty around Brexit but are further feeling the pressure by local authorities increasing the ambit of their cumulative impact areas, providing a blanket restriction on the times of trade, imposing onerous conditions or even conditions that are not directly related to the licensing objectives.
Where proposed changes in a local authority’s licensing policy will further restrict trade, it is crucial that the trade makes
In addition to the above, there are some ways in which the trade can maximise their opportunities. The suggestions that follow are not exhaustive, so it is worth looking at as many other options as possible:
- Check premises licences issued under the Licensing Act 2003 to establish whether:
- You can relax restrictive conditions
- You can extend the hours of trade
- You can add additional regulated activities
- You can add special events
- Check licensing plans to establish whether or not you can extend the ambit of the licensed area to incorporate, for example, outside areas, marquees, mezzanine levels, and the like.
- Early consideration of temporary event notices for events such as boxing, rugby league/union, Christmas or the new year
- Review potential advertising opportunities ensuring that you have the appropriate authorisation under the planning regime and/or by way of a pavement licence
- Good staff will be a premium, especially with the concerns around immigration and Brexit. It is worth financially investing in your staff and in training your staff to ensure some dedication to not only you but to your operation
- Start preparation, for Christmas, the new year and a fresh start for 2019. This may include refurbishments, new menus or even reviewing areas where you can ‘cut costs’.
Hopefully, the above will kick start a more positive view about the future and be transmitted through to the trade.