The Government indicated earlier in 2023 that it was exploring how to make permanent the off-sales easement that was granted during Covid, whilst also considering whether it was possible to merge this with the Fast Track pavement licensing regime that was also brought in during Covid.
Fast forward to January 2024 and the right to make off-sales has been extended until 31 March 2025 (you simply need to put a notice up complying with the requirements), and the Fast Track Pavement Licence scheme continues until 30 September 2024.
After that, for off-sales, the Government is exploring options. Watch this space. Regarding the Fast Track Pavement Licensing scheme, the Levelling Up and Regeneration Act received Royal Assent at the end of 2023 and just needs now to receive a Commencement Order bringing it into effect. The Act will make the Fast Track pavement licensing regime permanent, save for a few changes - the fee will no longer be £100 but £500 for a new Pavement Licence and £350 for a renewal on the same terms. The consultation and determination periods will also be increased from seven days each to 14 days each.
My guess is that the Government (one might ask which Government) will time the commencement of the new provisions with the expiry of the existing easement on or after 30 September 2024, so the new provisions may start on 1st October 2024. However, this is purely speculation and they could happen earlier, or indeed not at all.
Certain maximum limits for Temporary Event Notices were extended for 2022 and 2023, but just in case you had missed it from 1 January 2024 these limits revert to their original maximums which are, for any calendar year, 1. no more than 15 TENs per premises, and 2. the maximum aggregate number of days those TENs can cover is 21.
The Government is also consulting on a Relaxation of Licensing Hours Order during the semi-final and final of the 2024 UEFA European Championship. The proposal is that for England and Wales only, if the Scottish, Welsh or English teams reach the semi-final or final (9 and / 10 July for semi-final, and 14 July for the final) the hours for the sale of alcohol for consumption on the premises will be extended until 01:00, and any associated authorisation to provide hot food will also be extended until 01:00. Off-licences will not benefit from this provision and it does not extend to regulated entertainment either. Clearly, if premises have these activities already authorised on their licences until these hours or later then the proposal will make no difference. Again, I am hopeful that this proposal will make itself into law by way of a statutory instrument in good time for operators to plan and not need a Temporary Event Notice.
Interestingly, a Private Member’s Bill has been laid before Parliament by Mrs Emma Lewell-Buck, the Labour MP for South Shields. The Licensing Hours Extension Bill seeks to change the way that licensing hours relaxation orders are made, enabling them not to have to be approved by Parliament.
This seems a small but it is a very important proposal, if it makes it onto the statute books. It would mean that a Government minister could sign off an extension pretty much immediately for occasions of national or international significance.
Obviously, as with the 2024 UEFA European Championship the Government should have the foresight to plan ahead and make an Order with sufficient notice to be approved by Parliament, but there are occasions when something falls through the cracks and the Government just doesn’t have time for the 40 days or so for these instruments to sit awaiting approval by both Houses of Parliament.
This is where Mrs Lewell-Buck’s Bill would come in handy. Take the Women’s World Cup, a farcical situation where Licensing Authorities were put under political pressure to effectively expedite TENs to allow pubs to open early on the Sunday of the Women’s World Cup final when there was no legislative power for them to do so – it was just too late, even for a Late TEN. If this Bill were passed, it would mean a Minister would instead be able to sign a general extension even at short notice.
That seems eminently sensible and trade-friendly to me.
Martyn’s Law – otherwise known by its official title as the Terrorism (Protection of Premises) Bill, featured in the King’s Speech but we are still awaiting the public consultation that the Government promised regarding the Standard Tier (public capacity of 100 to 799) and until that consultation has taken place we cannot expect the Bill to be laid before Parliament. Time is ticking for this important proposed legislation. Will we see an amended definition of the Standard Tier, perhaps starting at a capacity of 500 rather than 100? I simply don’t know. Will certain venues be excluded from the definition of Standard Tier, for example village halls or other premises in the voluntary sector? We won’t know until the consultation has taken place.
Suffice to say, despite the delays there is likely to be a Protect Duty on the statute books, perhaps having effect from 2025 or 2026. Something to keep an eye on and if possible to plan and prepare for now.