More of your questions answered in this months Hill Brown Licensing Q & A.
We have just launched a restaurant but couldn’t get our premises licence through in time for the opening. The Board have been granting us occasional licences which has been great but there is an indication that they won’t grant these for much longer. Can they do that and is there a limit on the number you can get? It looks like it will be April before our licence is considered.
Occasional licences are a tricky topic in Licensing at the moment. A number of Boards are clamping down on their use as a stop gap to launch premises. The indication is that they are unhappy that they are sometimes used to circumvent the licensing process as the certificates from Environmental Health, Building Control and Planning required for a premises licence are not a precondition for grant of an occasional. With that said, it sounds like the Board for your area have been happy to grant occasionals until now. If you have applied as a personal or premises licenceholder, there is no limit on the number of applications you can make. There is a limit for voluntary organisations. If the Board is moving towards refusing your occasionals it would seem extremely unreasonable given that you are now
established. If they are looking to refuse they can only do so if they have received a report from an LSO or a notice of objection or representation. They are not obliged to hold a hearing but you must be given the opportunity to comment before determination. It is important to keep a very close eye on matters to ensure the correct procedures are followed. Given the uncertainty associated with occasional licences it is always preferable to obtain a premises licence at the earliest opportunity although l absolutely appreciate that is not always possible!
We are looking to do an offer to get customers through the door. There are a lot of mixed messages out there about what’s legal. Do you have any advice?
It’s a common misconception that all promotions are banned and there is no flexibility. That is simply not true. There are many ways in which you can use pricing or offers to make your business stand out. Although buy one get one free or ‘all you can drink’ offers are no longer permitted, there is nothing in the Act to prevent meal deals which incorporate alcohol or free drinks on the purchase of food. So, for example, you could offer a meal for two with champagne for a set price or a free glass of fizz with every booking where food is purchased although you should be aware that some LSOs view such offers as rewards for visiting the premises, contrary to the Legislation, so you do need to be aware of the view in your area. I recently saw a business advertising an offer where food and bottomless prosecco was provided for a set period of time. That would breach the regulations.
For more information you can contact Audrey directly at Hill Brown Licensing: AJ@mshblicensing.com