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Don’t let Halloween become a licensing nightmare

By David Inzani, solicitor at Poppleston Allen

- Last updated on GMT

Take the fear factor out of operating hours: advice from licensing solicitor Poppleston Allen (credit: Getty/shironosov)
Take the fear factor out of operating hours: advice from licensing solicitor Poppleston Allen (credit: Getty/shironosov)

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The autumn events schedule is almost here with Halloween and Guy Fawkes Night fast approaching, hopefully very different propositions to their 2020 Covid-related counterparts.

Halloween can be one of the biggest nights in the year for licensees and this year it is on a Sunday, meaning you may need to apply for a Temporary Event Notice (TEN) if you want to stay open beyond your usual permitted Sunday hours, says David Inzani​, solicitor at Poppleston Allen​.

The good news for fans of fireworks is that Guy Fawkes Night falls on a Friday, meaning licensees have a great opportunity to profit from those seeking to warm their feet and wet their whistle after watching a display.

Whatever the event, it is important to take the time to prepare and plan the licensing elements if you are to avoid any enforcement frights on the night. Here are some licensing tips to help:

  • Always check your permitted hours and licensable activities on your premises licence are sufficient to host the planned event. Review any non-standard timings on your licence because you may find you have an extra hour or two of trade already permitted for Halloween or Guy Fawkes Night.
  • By the time you read this, it may be too late for a TEN, which must be with the licensing authority, police and environmental health at least 10 clear working days before the event. However, you may still have time to apply for a ‘late TEN’, for which the deadline is five clear working days before the event. The disadvantage with a late TEN is that if it is objected to by police or environmental health it automatically becomes invalid without the right to a hearing or appeal.
  • If you want to have a disco, DJ or live band but do not have the relevant licensable activities on your licence, there are exemptions under the Live Music Act which may help you until 11pm. 
  • Review the conditions on the licence to see if there are any that impact on your plans for the event. For example, a condition requiring customers consuming alcohol to be seated may prevent you from having a dance floor without a TEN. Also, if you are planning any drinks promotions, be careful that they do not fall foul of the mandatory conditions.
  • Halloween is, of course, popular with teenagers and young adults so licensees should ensure that they have an up-to-date age verification policy and ensure all staff are familiar with the policy and strictly enforce it. Modern licence conditions nearly always require that a Challenge 21 or Challenge 25 policy is in place and posters relating to the policy are visible.
  • If you are planning to show horror-themed films you will not only need to ensure you are authorised to show films under a premises licence or TEN, but also that you have the copyright licences required from the relevant distributor to show the film in your premises eg, a Filmbank, MPLC or BFI licence.
  • Consider having a written risk assessment for any special events. Things to consider might be that you are trading later than usual or will have larger customer numbers and, therefore, need door staff. If there will be live music or a DJ and you have residents nearby then consider monitoring noise levels during the event. Having a dispersal policy and training staff can help minimize the risk of causing disturbance to your neighbours at the end of the night.

We always advise that taking the time to properly plan and prepare for your event to help make it a memorable one for customers and a problem-free one for you.

For more legal advice, visit​​.

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