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Obtaining a premises licence to convert a restaurant into a bar

How we secured a new premises licence in an "impenetrable" special policy area

People enjoying drinks in a pub

Our client wanted to convert a large city centre restaurant into a late night bar specialising in cocktails. The cost for the conversion was over £700k, meaning this was a significant investment for the operator.

However, the premises licence used at the old restaurant had restaurant conditions attached. This meant that alcohol could only be severed as part of a substantial meal; clearly not a condition that would suit a bar. Plus, the trading hours were too short for the new bar, as the operator wanted to trade until midnight.

Adding an extra legal complication was that the premises were located in the local councils special stress area. And this particular council is the only one in England and Wales with two special policy areas.

This means that premises licence applications and licence variations need to demonstrate not only that they will not have a negative impact on crime and disorder and public nuisance, but also that there are exceptional circumstances justifying the grant of the licence. These particular licensing policies have been described by a leading QC as “impenetrable.”

Managing Partner Lisa Sharkey appeared before the licensing committee facing objections from the police, environmental health and licensing authority, and successfully argued for the premises licence to be granted without any restaurant conditions but with the extended hours.

The result was applauded throughout the company and allowed the operator to protect the long term future of the business. The bar has already exceeded its trading expectations.

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