Trading later hours
Q. I am looking at taking a lease on a new bar in a city centre location and I would like to extend its hours to trade later until 1am on Fridays and Saturdays. I have checked the local council policy and there are “standard” policy hours for the area in which my premises is of 1am on Friday and Saturday. Can I expect to get these hours as they are significant to the future success of my business model?
A. Expectation is a dangerous concept. The law is on your side in that S.4(3) of the Licensing Act 2003 states that the licensing authority “must ……. have regard to” its own licensing statement. However, “having regard to” something is not the same as complying with.
Policies can only be a “guide” but if your application reaches the licensing committee then logic would suggest that the policy hours should be the starting point unless there are reasons to give you less. If you read more in the policy, then almost certainly there will be a “disclaimer” which indicates that the policy hours are not a given because (you will have heard this before) “each application is considered on its merits”.
As usual, then much will depend on the views of the responsible authorities and local residents to your proposal. Local residents, if they submit an objection, will not usually have taken into account the licensing policy, and in some instances will feel the policy “standard” hours do not align with their residential viewpoint. Especially since the pandemic, we have seen that residents in city centres have become more vocal with licensing applications, and in some instances have presented such fierce objection to an application within policy hours that the licensing committee side with them and depart from their own policy.
Q. I own a restaurant and I have the opportunity of buying next door and “knocking through”. The extra premises is going to add about another third in terms of increase to the trading space. What type of application should I apply for?
A. You will get differing views on this from various councils. From what you have said, I believe this is a full variation of the premises licence on the basis that (I presume) the existing business will continue in the same way with the same licensable activities and hours of operation.
However, there are some licensing officers who will regard such an extension as warranting a new licence application; in other words, the proposed premises will be so much larger than the previous one that the appropriate application is for a new premises licence using his or her discretion.
The process is principally the same but, of course, with a new application the existing licensable activities and hours of operation (which in many cases would not now be granted) are not protected. As ever, much will depend on the trading history of your premises, how residential the area is, the nature of the extension and the reasonableness of your licensing officer.
You could contact the officer first, but you may get the answer you do not want. The risk is that if you bite the bullet and submit a variation the licensing officer rejects this on the basis that changes are too “substantial” you then lose the time and costs and have to re-submit.