Licensed premises acquired
Q: I have recently acquired an existing licensed business on a busy high street. It previously operated as a restaurant but I have undertaken some works to it to install a bar at the front of the premises so people can just have a drink if they want to. There will still be a restaurant element.
A licensing enforcement officer told me the premises licence does not permit the sort of operation I am proposing and that I will need to operate as a pure restaurant or seek to make changes to the licence. Can this be correct?
A: When you acquired the premises, your professional advisers ought to have given you advice in relation to the terms of the current licence. At the very least, you should have been advised that any changes to the layout of the premises may well require an application for a variation or minor variation of the licence in order to legitimise them.
The conditions on the licence are important and if there is a ‘restaurant condition’ ie, one that requires alcohol only to be sold in conjunction with food that would preclude your ability to operate a traditional bar.
There is nothing wrong with customers having a drink before and/ or after their meal, but a meal must be an integral part of their visit.
Again, a variation or minor variation of the licence would be required to make any changes to the conditions and permit the type of combined use you are proposing.
Depending upon the local area, you may or may not find resistance to such a proposal because many authorities and residents may see a move away from a restaurant, and towards a bar, as having a negative impact on the licensing objectives.
Noise abatement notice
Q: I operate a private hire venue where my customers pay to have private parties, weddings and functions in the outbuildings of an old country manor, which I own.
During some of the early functions there were complaints from residents and an environmental health officer (EHO) issued a noise abatement notice.
As a result, I appointed noise consultants and believed we had arrived at a noise management plan that satisfied the EHO and seemed to have eliminated residential complaints.
The EHO has written to me and said following further complaints he wants to interview me in relation to breaches of the notice. What should I do?
A: Assuming that the notice was served more than 21 days ago, you no longer have a right of appeal against its validity.
The notice should specify exactly what you are precluded from doing, eg, ‘noise from amplified music’, ‘people noise’ and so on.
If the EHO has evidence nuisance has been caused as a result of breach of those terms, you have potentially committed a criminal offence that may be dealt with by way of prosecution through the magistrates’ court and is potentially punishable by an unlimited fine.
It would be a good idea to get some legal advice as you wouldn’t want to go to an interview under caution on your own.
Even if the EHO can establish a breach has occurred, you may still be able to rely upon a ‘best practicable means’ defence whereby you show the breaches have occurred despite your very considerable efforts not to cause a nuisance. Your case would be significantly strengthened if you can establish through evidence that you have complied with the terms of your noise management plan which was, by the sound of things, signed off by the EHO.
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