I was in a meeting with clients and a police officer last week when the subject of risk assessments was raised.
The newly appointed manager of the premises gave me a long blank stare when the subject came up. Assessing risks can sometimes seem like a very abstract concept and local authorities’ licensing policies and the Government’s guidance to the Licensing Act 2003 can help focus the mind of an operator; however, none of this can ever possibly be premises-specific given there are so many variables with each operation.
I recently found myself involved in lengthy discussions with responsible authorities regarding potential risks posed by the terms of a new premises licence application and appropriate conditions to deal with those risks.
There seems to be an increasing trend to ask for standardised conditions, usually developed from local policy, which risks venturing into the territory of failing to actually look at the evidence and assess what measures would be appropriate. This quite often results in very frustrated operators who cannot understand why the responsible authorities fail to take on board their reassurances regarding what they deem to be appropriate conditions.
Policy regulates risk and also mitigates it to some degree, but it is obviously down to individual operators to identify the risks that their business may pose and to put measures in place to mitigate these accordingly. The guidance states we should not have standardised conditions imposed on licences and it reiterates that each case should be considered on its merits which is, of course, a cornerstone of the whole licensing process.
It can, therefore, be very frustrating from an operator’s point of view to be on the receiving end of a responsible authority’s refusal to accommodate or even to consider their suggested conditions and I see an increasing perception of authorities ‘using a sledgehammer to crack a nut’ and impose conditions on a licence in order to follow some political will or policy that is not always documented within the licensing policy or evidenced in some other form.
In my experience, operators often feel frustrated when appearing before a licensing sub-committee to justify their own proposed conditions, only for a committee to ultimately impose the very conditions that were suggested in the first place. Substantial amounts of time and money can be saved by partnership working and early consultation, but it also requires a pragmatic approach in relation to conditions and appropriate measures.
Pragmatism and trust in operators can go a long way to building relationships and successful operations that are not burdened with onerous conditions.