Be proactive to ensure your operation is in order over the festive period
I sat at a train station last Friday and listened with interest to a couple complaining that they could not find anywhere to host their annual Christmas party. This, along with the annual familiarity of the drop in temperature, more toys in shops and the dark evenings reminded me that it was fast approaching the Festive time of year.
This formed the basis of my conversation with a Police Licensing Officer who informed me that she was on duty over the Christmas and New Year period. This is a notoriously busy time of the year for the enforcing authorities, however she had a plan. After some coercion, she explained her approach.
She intended to attend the local pubwatch meeting and inform and email all participants of their obligations under the Licensing Act 2003, to show her attempt to work in partnership
She would then conduct a licensing inspection at key late night venues, noting and confirming all of their failings.
If there were any incidents she would take formal enforcement action and use the above as a basis to object to any temporary event notices issued in respect of that premises.
Prior to the festive period, she anticipates that the premises would have an incident but this would give her ammunition to issue a summary review, which she would use to restrict the premises' trade.
Ergo, making her job much easier.
As I expressed incredulity at this unusual and calculated approach I tried to explain the error of her ways. However, she felt that if the operators could not trade their premises legally then “they should not be operating”. I promised her that I would attempt to thwart her plans and write an article reminding the trade of the pitfalls of trading over the festive period, to which she replied “good luck.”
I must say this is not typical but with her challenge echoing over the weekend, here is my attempt to frustrate her plans and hopefully help operators maximise their business potential and safely entertain their customers.
Operators are already familiar with the requirements to display the premises licence summary and notice specifying a nominated person to hold the premises licence but this is also a perfect time to provide additional training to door, temporary and bar staff, ensuring that they are familiar with the terms of the premises licence, the laws in relation to selling alcohol to under 18’s, preventing alcohol being sold to drunks and compliance with other policies such as drugs, door or dispersal policies.
Remember to avoid the rush and book any additional door staff as soon as possible. They should all be familiar with your operation and obligations under the Licensing Act 2003.
Now is a good time to check whether you have permissions to trade over the festive period. If certain activities are not on your licence, you can submit an early application for a temporary event notice. Alternatively, you are in time to submit either a minor variation or even a full (uncontested) variation to address any deficiencies. Some licences allow an extension of hours on certain notable days over this period. Again, it’s worth checking that you have proper cover not only for general trade but also for those pre-booked parties.
The Police are keen to ensure that, in the event of an incident, offenders can be quickly identified and apprehended by proper use and maintenance of a CCTV system. Is your system working properly?
No doubt there will be licensing checks over the festive period so avoid the risk of counterfeit goods by steering clear of cheap food and drink from “suspect” suppliers.
Work closely with the authorities and also your neighbours, who can also instigate a Review. Careful control of outside areas, smokers and customers leaving the premises is necessary. Working with neighbours and providing them with a little advance warning of festive parties could dissuade them from reporting noise issues to the Council. It may even convince them that your customers' impromptu rendition of 'Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer' is nothing more than a bit of festive fun (perish the thought).
I should not be forgiven if I failed to mention games such as poker, bingo and raffles. They are popular all year round but especially at Christmas. These games are permitted on licensed premises but there are strict limits and you should always seek legal advice before permitting them on your premises.
The above is by no means exhaustive but whatever your plans for Christmas let's ensure this year is not a winter of discontent but a season to be jolly.