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Are we Heading Back to the Days of Public Entertainment Licences “PELs”?

Inappropriate conditions request

There are two aspects to this “rant” but before I start I need to qualify by stating that it does not apply to the vast majority of Licensing Authorities.

However in the last two months I have dealt with three applications to vary and “tidy up” conditions on licences where inappropriate conditions have been suggested (and unfortunately due to time and cost have been agreed).

The idea to tidy-up the conditions was to simplify the licence and remove those conditions which either are no longer relevant or duplicate existing law.

The two aspects are firstly, that the new conditions which were requested continued to duplicate existing legislation and whilst we succeeded in removing many conditions, we still ended up agreeing (to avoid a hearing) conditions which, still reflected current legislation.

The second, and in my opinion, more worrying aspect is that the conditions which are put forward have absolutely nothing to do with the variation application.

It is this second point which is very frustrating since there seems to be a reluctance amongst some Licensing Authorities to acknowledge that the representation has nothing to do with the application.  If our client is carrying out a refurbishment and as part of that refurbishment is also seeking to tidy the licence up why do the Authorities seek the following conditions (which are summarised for brevity):

• Emergency access and egress procedures
• Hiring out the premises to third parties such as event promotions;
• The implementation of ear protection measures for customers;
• The provision of gas safety certificates;
• The introduction of Challenge 25.

All of the above were requested by a Responsible Authority where our application was to tidy up the conditions and / or refurbish (that is improve) the premises.

A relevant Representation must relate to the likely effect of the grant of the application on the four licensing objectives.

In these cases there is a blatant attempt by some Responsible Authorities to add standard conditions (the way it was with PELs).

In another case some time ago when I asked why a Challenge 25 Policy was being requested as part of a refurbishment, I was met with the answer from Trading Standards that they do this on all variations in order to “standardise” conditions across the Local Authority.

The Licensing Authority should be brave and challenge the validity of such representations which are not related to the refurbishment or to the conditions which we have been looking to amend or delete.  Often clients decide to accept such conditions usually because it is best practice and they do not see the point in arguing which would not only delay the approval of the application (which may be time critical in terms of alterations) but would also involve additional costs of a hearing.

This is a personal view but no doubt shared by other licensing practitioners.  Some Licensing Authorities should take a stronger stance in resisting unnecessary and inappropriate conditions simply because they are considered desirable or “standard”.

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