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What are the licensing rules for beer gardens?

Top tips: Poppleston Allen has some advice on licensing rules in outside areas (image: Getty/Muenz)
Top tips: Poppleston Allen has some advice on licensing rules in outside areas (image: Getty/Muenz)

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British summertime has well and truly arrived and beer gardens across the country are back in full swing, with Covid restrictions now a distant memory.

With the current cost of living crisis, attracting customers is becoming increasingly challenging to the trade. One question operators are beginning to ask themselves is whether it is time to change the mundane tables and chairs set up and switch it up to a more immersive and exciting experience? We have seen many premises develop their beer gardens creating more experiential offerings. From the edible beer garden in greater Manchester, to outdoor cinemas in Kidderminster and Mini Golf in Nottingham, pubs continue to experiment with alternative offerings to keep the punters happy.

So, what are the rules and regulations in relation to outdoor beer gardens?

In terms of licensing law, premises are provided more flexibility than you might first think. However, before you start digging the golf holes, there are a few things to consider.

Firstly, be considerate of your neighbours. It is imperative to get along with neighbours when operating an outside area. A friendly relationship can quickly turn sour if noisy or disruptive activities are disturbing residents just over the other side of a fence. It is advisable to inform neighbours of any proposed plans and activities you are looking to host in the beer garden, and maybe even invite them!

If healthy relationships are maintained, you will reduce the risk of formal complaints being made to the local licensing authority, environmental health team or police. Consistent complaints can easily result in enforcement action being taken against the premises, such as a noise abatement notice or a statutory nuisance notice.

If you are looking to offer an outdoor cinema, there are further considerations.

Films are a licensable activity which are not covered by the Live Music Act or workplace exemption, so check your premises is licensed to show films, and the screening area is within the red line on the licence plans.

If not, you may have to apply for temporary events notices to screen films, or if the cinema is offering to be a more permanent structure, submit a variation to your licence. If the premises is licensed for films, it is a good idea to get the appropriate copyright authorisation to show the film such as PRS or Filmbank and ensure that the film is age appropriate for the audience.

Finally, if you are looking to have outdoor live music in your beer garden to entertain your guests, you must first check the premises is licensed to do so, and the beer garden is covered by the red line on the premises licence plans. If not, you may be able to rely on the Live Music Act to have music. Check out our article for more information on this here​.

Diversification in beer gardens is something all are in favour of to make the customer experience the best possible, however the above considerations must be taken into account before doing so. As always, it is advisable to do the appropriate due diligence including preparation of risk assessments before undertaking any outdoor activity at the premises.

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