Legal Q&A: music volume and personal licences

By Poppleston Allen

- Last updated on GMT

Creating a 'good vibe': 'incidental' music is allowed in pub gardens
Creating a 'good vibe': 'incidental' music is allowed in pub gardens
The latest legal Q&A with specialist licensing solicitors Poppleston Allen looks at the regulations governing music volume and personal licence holder's with prior convictions

The playing of music at low volumes

Q: I would like to place a couple of speakers outside in my beer garden and play low-volume music but I don’t know whether I am permitted to do so by my premises licence, which only allows for the playing of recorded music indoors​?

A. All you are looking to do is play background music for which there is no legal definition, but you should consider whether a conversation can be held at a normal level between two people sat across the table when music is being played. If it can then that would constitute background music.

If this is the only music you are looking to play then provided the playing of that music is ‘incidental’ to the consumption of food or alcohol in the beer garden then it does not constitute a licensable activity and subject to any conditions on your premises licence, you would be free to provide background music through the outdoor speakers.

Some premises’ licences, however, do contain conditions that restrict the use of speakers outside.

If the beer garden is licensed for the sale of alcohol then any such restriction under the Live Music Act 2012 would not be applicable up to 11pm, but would then apply after that time, so the speakers cannot be used outside after such a time.

A personal licence holder’s conviction

Q: It has come to our attention that one of our personal licence holders had a conviction six months ago for drink-driving. We are thinking of making him the designated premises supervisor (DPS) but are naturally concerned about the conviction. Should the court not have automatically revoked his personal licence?
A. This would depend upon whether or not he told the court that he was a personal licence holder. In all likelihood, he didn’t know that he had to tell the court or, if he did, he may have decided not to tell the court. By not telling the court he has committed a further offence. He may, however, have told the court but no action was taken against his personal licence. You, as the employer, are under no legal obligation to tell the police or licensing authority about this but you may wish to consider whether or not he is an appropriate person to hold the position of a DPS when he has a drink-driving conviction and he may have failed to tell the court about the fact he is a personal licence holder.

When the application is made for him to become the DPS, many police forces will undertake criminal record checks against an individual and the police may, at that point, establish that he has a conviction for drink-driving and so it may, therefore, come to light that he failed to disclose this to the magistrates’ court. Obviously, he may have disclosed it to the court and they simply decided not to suspend or forfeit his personal licence.

If it then comes to light that he has a personal licence and he failed to disclose this to the magistrates’ court when he was first in court for the drink-driving offence, the police could also charge him with the offence of failing to disclose the existence of his personal licence.

The licensing authority may decide to hold a hearing to consider whether or not his personal licence should be revoked. In other words, he may think that there are going to be no consequences for his personal licence but as soon as any application is made to include him on the premises licence as a DPS then the existence of this conviction and the fact he has not disclosed it to the court may well come to light with either a further potential prosecution or the licensing authority taking action against his personal licence.

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