Ahead of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, the British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) is calling for extended licensing hours, with some games set to kick-off as late as 11pm UK time.

Next summer’s tournament is expected to provide a much needed financial boost for the hospitality sector, with an estimated revenue injection of £50 million. However, England’s opening fixture against Italy is set to take place at 11pm UK time on Saturday 14 June. Whilst many premises had anticipated the increased revenue, current licensing laws mean that few will be able to open their doors to fans for all games.

Pitmans LLP explores the options available to hospitality businesses and whether a campaign to change licensing laws has any prospect of success.

What options are currently available?

Premises supplying alcohol need to have a valid Premises Licence. This includes pubs, bars, hotels, restaurants and cafes. The applicant is able to choose the days and hours during which he wishes to be authorised to carry on activities at the premises, subject to approval from the necessary authorities. Whilst a number of premises will only have a licence to serve alcohol up to 11pm, an application can be made to vary the terms of the licence to allow for extended opening hours, subject to no objection from local residents or the necessary authorities.

An additional Late Night Licence is needed to serve hot food or drink (excluding alcohol) to the public between 11pm and 5am, which must be applied for from your relevant local authority, with an additional fee payable. This may be unviable for a one-off event but may be appropriate should establishments wish to extend their opening hours for the whole tournament.

A Temporary Event Notice (TEN) allows for the holding of a small scale licensable activity outside of normal hours without the need to vary your Premises Licence. Recent changes in the law on TENs mean one event can now last up to 168 hours (7 days), up to a maximum aggregate of 21 days a year. In addition, notices can now be issued up to 5 working days before the event period begins (a late TEN).

What are the prospects for an automatic extension?

Pursuant to section 172 of the Licensing Act 2003, the Secretary of State may make an order relaxing the opening hours for licensed premises to mark an occasion of ‘exceptional international, national or local significance’. A ‘licensing hours order’ can also be used to override existing opening hours in licensed premises for a period of up to 4 days.

Flexibility in licensing laws has already been seen in the UK for the Royal Wedding and the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. During the Royal Wedding for example, opening hours were extended to 1am on certain days.

Whether England’s presence in the World Cup, or potentially the World Cup Final, is seen by Parliament as meeting the threshold of ‘exceptional international, national or local significance’ remains to be seen, however, the move certainly has the backing of several MPs.

What steps should you be taking now?

As a licensed premises, you may already be covered for international sporting events, but it is important to plan ahead to ensure you are acting lawfully and are able to take financial advantage of next summer’s World Cup. The penalties for serving alcohol without appropriate licences are a fine of up to £20,000 and/or six months imprisonment. As such, legal advice should be sought on the procedures and timescales for applying for or varying the relevant licence(s).