It is hard to muster enthusiasm for festivities during such a commute, but in fairness to old Mickey Bubbles, it is most definitely that time of the year, when the licensed trade must look to the season ahead and pray to the Ghost of Christmas Present that all will be Merry and Bright.
One thing which occupies a significant part of November for the jobbing licensing lawyer is getting licence holders ready for their Yuletide offerings. Whether that is a new premises licence for premises which do not yet have one or Temporary Event Notices (TEN) for those that are looking to do something they do not normally do, up and down the land DPS’s are checking their licences to see if their plans for the festive period are permitted by their licence conditions and hours, and finding solutions to problems where they arise.
One issue which crops up each year at this time concerns restaurants hosting parties and functions and often finding themselves bound by so called “restaurant licences”, which limit the sale of alcohol for consumption on the premises only. What happens when a reveller wants to take their half-finished bottle of wine away with them?
As anyone who works in hospitality will tell you, trying to reason with customer who is three quarters full of Chateau Neuf du Pape is like trying to negotiate with Hans Gruber. For those premises who are permitted to allow customers to leave with their resealed bottles as part of their licence conditions, the answer for them is easy and ought to appease even the most discriminating of merry partygoers.
The headaches of previous Christmases however have meant that customers, not keen on reasoned conversation have been asked to either drink up or leave their leftovers so that the licensee does not fall foul of their obligations where only sales of alcohol for consumption on the premises are permitted. For premises who predict these issues, TENs with off-sales can remove the issue for a limited time but of course, they require the giving of the notice to the licensing authority and the foresight that goes with it.
So, what is the advice for this year? Are things the same as we enter the party season in earnest? Do you need to urgently need to get that TEN in to avoid potential unpleasantness when that inevitable conversation takes place? The good news is that is for those of you in that position, this year is going to be a lot simpler.
Back in September the Government confirmed the continuation of the easement on the restriction for ‘on sale’ only premises as part of the legacy of Covid-19 regulations which are currently renewed until September 2023. The upshot to that is that any premises which has a licence for on-sales can now, subject to certain limitations, sell alcohol for consumption off the premises. Better still, any pesky licensing conditions which seek to limit the taking away of part drunk alcohol are disapplied as part of the easement.
There is however, one important limitation to the relaxing of the rules, which is that off-sales under the easement can only take place up until 23:00. Premises which wish to rely on this easement need to keep a statement on the premises to that effect listing those conditions which are disapplied due to the regulations. Now when Mr Gruber wants to take his bottle away with him, you can look forward to a Silent Night.