What operators need to know about the practical effects of the changes introduced to the Licensing Act 2003
Licensing Authorities and Primary Care Trusts / Local Health Boards now fall within the definition of "Responsible Authorities" and can make representations, or bring Reviews of Premises Licences. Licensing Authorities are encouraged to ensure a "degree of separation" of powers, so that the same Licensing Officer who makes a representation or brings a Review is not also responsible for the application itself.
The concept of "vicinity" has disappeared and therefore any person can now either bring a review of a Premises Licence or make a representation to an application. The representation must still be relevant to one of the four licensing objectives and cannot be vexatious or frivolous.
Licensing Authorities can now make any decision which it determines is "appropriate" as opposed to "necessary".
Therefore, when deciding whether or not to remove or impose a condition on a Premises Licence, the test is very much watered down. Whereas it may not be "necessary" to have door supervisors on duty, it may be "appropriate".
Likewise, on any Review of a Premises Licence, the Licensing Authority only now needs to take steps that are "appropriate" to promote the licensing objectives as opposed to "necessary".
There is some good news however:
A Licensing Authority must suspend a Premises Licence if the annual fee is not paid on the due date. There is a grace period of 21 days, if the holder has failed to pay the annual fee due to an administrative error, or the holder of the licence has notified the Licensing Authority that they dispute the liability for the fee. The Licensing Authority must give the holder of the Premises Licence a notice to the effect that the licence is suspended, such suspension to take effect at least 2 working days after the day the Authority gives the Premises Licence Holder the notice.
There is no limit to a fine for "persistently selling alcohol to children", i.e., two sales within the period of three months, and the period of "voluntary" cessation of alcohol sales agreed with the Police instead of prosecution has increased from a maximum of 2 days to 2 weeks.