Q. I recently acquired a rural village pub with a large outdoor area. The pub is surrounded by local residents who were all very supportive of the pub when it reopened after being closed for a long period of time. Things have turned sour more recently after a we ran a series of events and mini festivals in the external area.
These events are all permitted as part of the premises licence, but I have had numerous visits from the environmental health officer telling me that the residents of the village have complained about noise from music and customers when they are leaving the premises.
The environmental health officer has told me I will be served with a noise abatement notice and the premises licence is going to be reviewed. The pub will not be viable in the long term without these types of events. My overheads are increasing daily and I need to be able to provide these events to generate additional income to make the premises viable. What should I do?
A. This is an increasing problem, particularly following the quiet period the pandemic enforced upon all of us. Many residents who live in close proximity to licensed premises got used to the relative peace the pandemic restrictions imposed and have found it difficult to adjust to pre pandemic levels of noise.
That said, there is a duty upon you as an operator to ensure that any activities you carry out at the premises do not cause a nuisance to nearby neighbours or businesses.
The first thing you should do is request a meeting with the environmental health officer to see if the noise abatement notice and the application to review the premises licence have been issued and to explore if there are any steps you can take to appease local residents and the environmental health officer.
Once a noise abatement notice has been served, you risk prosecution and/or an unlimited fine if the notice is breached. It is possible to appeal against a noise abatement notice, but you would need to seek legal advice to see if this is worthwhile.
Once an application to review the premises licence has been submitted, the matter will proceed to a hearing before the council’s licensing sub-committee, and you will need to be proactive in defending the review in order to have the best possible chance of ensuring that the hours and activities permitted by the premises licence remain intact.
The worst-case scenario with a review of the licence is that the council can revoke or suspend the premises licence (with a suspension of up to three months). The council may also decide to reduce the hours you are permitted to have licensable activities, remove licensable activities or add/amend conditions on the premises licence.
Ultimately, this may affect your ability to have any events within the external area at the premises at all. Appointing a specialist acoustic consultant to assist with measuring noise levels when events are taking place and formulating an event management plan and dispersal policy are also good initial steps to take. You may also wish to consider meeting with local residents to understand the extent of their concerns and see if there are any additional measures you can take to address these. The best chance of defending a review is showing that you have been proactive in taking reasonable steps to address the concerns raised and can alleviate any issues of noise nuisance in the future.
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