Top Tips: Cooperating with Licensing and Police Officers will make a difference
Your Premises Licence is your most valuable asset. Without it, none of the activities which keep your business going from day to day can take place. Enforcement action is always a possibility and local residents becoming more active in their complaints against licensed premises. Perhaps after ten years of the Licensing Act 2003 being in place, residents are becoming increasingly aware of their rights and ability to review or lodge complaints with the authorities. Here are our tips for dealing with any enforcement action: -
• If you receive a visit from the authorities then you should co-operate with them immediately. It can be intimidating when Licensing Officers or Police Officers are carrying out visits however this is the perfect opportunity to use their valuable knowledge as a way of taking advice upon how you can improve your business and ways to ensure compliance with your licence conditions.
• In the event that you receive an enforcement letter as opposed to a visit, you should investigate the matter immediately to establish where the alleged failings have arisen and contact the authority that has written to you as soon as possible, to discuss the allegations. It is important to advise them upon any remedial action which you have taken and confirm whether anything further is required or if further action will be taken. Swift action means you have a greater chance of avoiding a review of your premises licence, prosecution or further enforcement such as a noise abatement notice.
• In the case of receiving complaints from local residents or if an enforcement letter or visit reveals that the authorities have received such complaints, it is important to find out the nature of the allegations immediately, particularly specific dates and times. Speak to relevant staff and go through any CCTV footage you have and match up the dates and times in order to establish whether the allegations have any substance. It is common for the initial allegations to cite incidents which may be attributable to another premises or some other cause unrelated to your business. It is therefore vital that in order to protect your licence, you can establish the facts. In the event that the fault does indeed lie at your door, again you should carry out a full investigation and put an action plan into place as well as considering whether to organise a residents’ meeting in order to discuss any concerns.
• In our experience the majority of formal enforcement action comes at the end of a longer history of informal warnings, meetings and action plans that have not been complied with. Make sure that you and your staff act promptly to address problems before the authorities or residents decide that their only recourse is a formal Review or other court action. Early mediation can preserve relationships and safeguard your licence.
It can be worrying to receive notification of enforcement action however, the majority of Licensing Officers or Police Officers will be only too happy to assist if there has been a genuine mistake. Our advice is therefore to follow the tips above, take a common sense approach and be very robust with staff training to ensure that all staff are aware of the terms and conditions of the licence.