Published: 23 September 2022 by Andy Grimsey
Note: the following is a guidance note on a change to the law which first took place in July 2020 during the pandemic. That legislation was due to expire on the 30th September 2022 but has now been extended until 30th September 2023. There is therefore no ‘new’ law, just an extension of permissions from which you may currently benefit.
If you only have off-sales on your licence.
Firstly, premises that are not currently authorised to sell alcohol for consumption off the premises at all (in other words “on sales only”) are authorised to provide off sales until 30 September 2023 without the need to make any application to the licensing authority.
Any restrictions on the licence are suspended in so far as they are inconsistent with this authorisation for off sales. For example, if you had a condition stating “No off sales” this would not apply.
These permissions are subject to a ‘pre-cut off time’ of 11pm – the benefits of the legislation do not extend beyond that time. You must be open for the sale of alcohol for consumption on the premises to benefit from the off-sales easement.
You are required to keep a statement making clear that you are relying on the relevant Section (s.172F(2)) of the Licensing Act 2003 permitting you to provide off-sales. That’s really all it needs to say. The statement does not have to be displayed but must be kept at the premises.
If you are already permitted on and off-sales.
For premises are already authorised to sell alcohol for consumption both on and off the premises, any conditions on the licence that purport to limit or prevent deliveries are suspended, any time-limit on the licence for off-sales (e.g. off-sales until 9pm only) and also any conditions which require off-sales to be made only in sealed containers are suspended.
These permissions are subject to a ‘pre-cut off time’ of 11pm – the benefits of the legislation do not extend beyond that time. You must be open for the sale of alcohol for consumption on the premises to benefit from this easement.
Again, you are required to keep a statement making clear that you are relying on the relevant Section (s.172F(5)) of the Licensing Act 2003, and this notice must list the types of conditions that are suspended – they will either be ‘No deliveries’ type conditions, ‘All off-sales must be in sealed containers’ type conditions or ‘off-sales must cease at x time’ conditions – practically speaking, these are the only two types of conditions that are suspended by the legislation. Again, that’s really all the statement needs to say. It does not have to be displayed but must be kept at the premises.
Premises with on-sales only who hope to benefit from the additional off sales permission do not qualify if a “Disqualifying Event” occurred between 22 July 2017 and 22 July 2020 (in other words during the three years immediately preceding the original coming into effect of the provisions). This would include if the licensing authority had refused to grant a premises licence authorising off sales, or to vary a licence to include off sales, or if the licence was varied to explicitly exclude off sales.
Permissions for both premises previously only with on sales and those with existing on and off sales under this section will continue until 30 September 2023 or until the permission is revoked or excluded.
There are provisions for a so-called “Off Sales Review” which is similar (but separate to) the existing summary review procedure.
A responsible authority can apply for an Off Sales Review at short notice and the licensing authority must decide within 48 working hours (weekends are excluded) whether to take any Interim Steps against the licence. For those who have simply been granted off sales for the first time those interim steps could include excluding off sales from the licence or suspending those off sales.
For those who already have off sales but are benefiting from suspension of conditions relating to time, sealed containers or deliveries the licensing authority can amend those conditions, no doubt restricting the manner of off sales or possibly even preventing them.
An interim steps hearing can take place without the licence holder but operators do have the opportunity to request a further hearing to review those interim steps. There is also a mandatory full review hearing 28 days after the application was made by the responsible authority but again this only relates to the issue of off sales and the rest of the licence and its permissions are not open to restriction or modification.
It is also possible to appeal against the decisions both for interim steps and the final review.
For further information on this legal change or any other licensing regulation, contact senior consultant solicitor Andy Grimsey.
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