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Rules for functions at private members’ clubs

Can we offer our function room for private hire?

Q. I am a member of a Committee at a Private Member’s Club and we are losing a lot of our members. The Treasurer has suggested we should offer our function room for private parties like we used to when we had a Club Registration Certificate. I know there are reasons why we stopped allowing the weddings and functions, however have the rules relating to private functions been relaxed to allow us to offer our function room once again to the general public?

A. The very quick and short answer is no. When the new Licensing Act came into force in 2005, the permission which allowed you to have a certain number of private functions was repealed with the old Act. There has been a number of discussions about the use of club premises for private functions but I can confidently say that were you to do so, either the Police or the Licensing Authority would begin to question your status as a Private Member’s Club and the continued need to allow access only to members or guests; and affiliate members from other clubs.

There were a number of clubs in 2005 who applied for conversion of the Club Registration Certificate to a Club Premises Certificate and also applied for a Premises Licence for their concert room or function room. The two permissions enable them to run their Private Member’s Club as before with physical separation (an internal door) between the members and the members of the public booking and using the concert/function room.

The club benefits in that it has a separate revenue stream even though they have to maintain separate accounts to allow for alcohol sold to the public. There are however drawbacks, the most obvious of which is the relationship with the Police. Police Officers may only enter a Private Member’s Club by invitation other than a Police Officer pursuing a felon who they believe to be either hiding or has been seen entering the club.

The Police will almost certainly wish to apply conditions to a Premises Licence regarding upgrades or new CCTV, SIA registered door staff and conditions applied to the licence which would generally not be the case for a Private Member’s Club. The club must also employ a Designated Premises Supervisor to supervise the sale of alcohol to the public. There are a number of factors to consider and my very sound advice is to think it through before committing, but also be very reluctant to sacrifice what is an extremely important document, your Club Premises Certificate.

Premises Licences have their attractions and generally the Police would look favourably upon a Premises Licence application from a Club Premises as they automatically gain more control through conditions they will wish to apply to the Premises Licence. The views of the membership need to be taken into consideration and depending upon what type of club you are the Trustees will also need to be involved in the discussions. In conclusion, it may be possible and reasonably straight forward to add the Premises Licence to your current permissions, however, seek professional advice before taking the plunge.

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