There are a few vital things that you need to do before taking on or taking over a licenced premises:
- 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
- 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 actually in force and the hours and activities are correct
- 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 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.
- 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 pub 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