Licensing laws are changing and here we round up the key developments and how they affect this summer’s sporting events.

With the rain beating down on us almost continuously at the moment it may not be easy to imagine an action-packed summer of entertainment ahead, but the fact is we have a lot to look forward to over the next few months, whether or not the sun is shining.

Firstly we have the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and the relaxation of hours, but what will relaxation allow?

The European Championships 2012 kick-off in June.  Matches will take place early evening so they should fall within most premises’ authorised hours.

The Olympic torch relay will run from mid-July culminating in the Olympic Games themselves at the end of July and the Paralympics at the end of August. All these events will mean extra trade for licensed retailers and an impact on transport and accommodation.  It’s going to be a busy summer, come rain or shine.

Changes to the law

The Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011 brought into force on 25 April 2012 the following changes:

  • Suspension of licences for failure to pay annual fees
  • Temporary Event Notice changes
  • Doubling of the fine for persistent underage sales to £20,000 and increasing the period of voluntary closure from 2 days to a maximum of 14 days as an alternative to a fine
  • Conditions required to be “appropriate” rather than “necessary” for the promotion of the licensing objectives
  • Licensing Authorities and Health Authorities become Responsible Authorities.  Now they are served with copies of applications and can object and/or apply for review of premises licences
  • Removal of the vicinity test for persons making representations
  • Licensing Authority Policy Statements renewable every 5 years rather than 3

Possibly the only welcome news to come out of these changes is the relaxation of time limits of Temporary Event Notices (TENs). One event can now last up to 168 hours (7 days) and allow a maximum aggregate of 21 days a year. In addition, late notices will be permitted up to 5 working days before the event period begins although there will be a limit on late TENs per person, per year.

The Order for the relaxation of licensing hours for the Diamond Jubilee provides for premises licences to be extended for 2 hours beginning at 11pm on Friday 1 June and Saturday 2 June 2012 (which means, until 1am on the mornings of 2 and 3 June respectively) for on-sales of alcohol and entertainment.  Late night refreshment will also extend to 1am provided it includes alcohol sales. The Order does not extend to off-sales of alcohol.  You could of course use a TEN instead to extend late night refreshment or any other licensable activities.

Live Music Act

Key changes the Live Music Act will bring for licence holders is that amplified live music will not need to be licensed in premises authorised for on-sales of alcohol for audiences of up to 200 people between 8am and 11pm.  So if you want to hold live amplified music events within these times for a small audience, even in offices and factories without a premises licence, you no longer need to apply for a TEN or a variation of your premises licence.  There is also a separate exemption for premises that are not licensed at all or are only licensed for late night refreshment that will be able to provide unamplified live music during these times with no requirement for further authorisation.

One word of warning however - don’t forget your PPL or PRS licences.

Still to come

The Home Office has indicated that the provisions on Early Morning Restriction Orders (EMROs) and the Late Night Levy (the Levy) are likely to be brought in around October 2012.  Minimum pricing is also still to be decided upon.

If a Licensing Authority considers an EMRO appropriate to promote the licensing objectives, operators will not be able to serve alcohol during the period in the Order, to apply anywhere between midnight and 6am, regardless of the hours authorised under a licence, certificate of TEN.  Exemptions are narrow, but include premises with overnight accommodation, theatres and cinemas, community premises, casinos and bingo halls with a membership scheme.

A Late Night Levy will apply to the whole of an Authority’s jurisdiction if they decide to impose one and is payable by all premises licence holders with a premises licence (or club premises certificate) which authorises the sale of alcohol during the “late night supply period” which again can be anywhere between midnight and 6 am.  Even if you do not open during that supply period, if you are authorised to open you have to pay the Levy.  There will be exemptions (including New Year’s Eve which has 24 hour authorisation on most licences) and discounts available for Best Practice Schemes.

The Guardian reported on 23 March that David Cameron would be pressing ahead with imposing a minimum price for alcohol of 40p per unit to come into force in 2014.