Here are our hints and tips for anyone taking on a new licensed premises
There are a few vital things that you need to do before taking on or taking over an existing licensed premises. The list is non exhaustive and as a starting point we strongly advise you undertake a comprehensive look at the full licence history and current position.
- Ask the seller for a copy of the current premise licence and plan. You need to check that the licence covers all of the licensable activities that you want and need, and that you are happy with the hours and review all the conditions
- Check the plan attached to the licence is the same as the actual physical layout of the premises. If the premises have changed and the licence has not been updated, then an offence is currently being committed. If you buy the premises you are effectively taking over responsibility for that offence
- Check with the Licensing Authority that the copy licence you have been given is the correct one and is a complete and accurate copy – is there more than one licence in force? Are there other licences – marriage licences, gaming or tables and chairs permissions?
- Check whether there are any current proceedings being taken against the licence; for example, a forthcoming review or even a past review which is under appeal. As soon as that appeal is abandoned by the seller or determined by the court any sanctions imposed on the review will kick in, and you may be left with a closed pub or onerous conditions on the licence
You also want to check any pending prosecutions; failed test purchases; residential complaints; enforcement notices or noise abatement notices. As well as asking the current licensee, you should contact the Licensing Authority, EHO and the police for this information.
Consider who actually holds the licence. If the licence holder has entered into any form of insolvency, or has died, then the licence may well have expired.
Upon death, the licence lapses immediately and only certain parties can make applications for the licence to be brought back into effect within very strict time limits
Upon any form of insolvency, the licence lapses immediately. Again only certain parties can reinstate the licence by making applications within very strict time limits.
You should do a check at the start of discussions and prior to completion to ensure that the licence holder has not died nor entered into any form of insolvency.
Check the annual fee has been paid – is the Late Night Levy applicable?
- Seek an assurance from the seller, that the licence conditions have been, and are being, complied with and that no unauthorised alterations have been carried out
- If you are acquiring a lease, then check any restrictions on trading hours; use of premises; outside areas; etc
- Look at current planning permissions for the premises. There may well be restrictions on hours or on the use of an external area
- Upon completion, you need to apply for the licence to be transferred out of the name of the current holder
- You need to obtain from the seller a consent form; signed by the current holder of the licence confirming that they are happy for the licence to be transferred. You will also need, on completion, the seller to deliver to you the original licence and deposited plans so you can lodge your transfer application with the council without any delay
- If the premises currently has the benefit of a pavement licence, which allows tables and chairs to be placed on the public highway, then check with the Local Authority whether this can be transferred into your name. Some Authorities may not allow it to be transferred and you may need to apply for a new licence
Top licensing tips after you’ve handed over your cash
- Transfer the licence and at the same time, if you have any gaming machines, apply to transfer the licensed premises gaming machine permit (if you have more than 2 AWP machines or notify the Council if you have 1 or 2 machines). It is important that you lodge both applications together
- Decide who is going to be your Designated Premise Supervisor (DPS). If the individual currently named is not staying, then you need immediately, on completion, to lodge an application to vary the DPS. If you sell alcohol without a DPS you commit an offence
- Remember the person you put forward as the DPS, who is going to be in day to day control of the premises, must hold a personal licence. You should try and prepare this application in advance of completion and lodge it with your transfer application. As with your transfer application, you can request that this application takes immediate effect so that it does not affect trade