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The Law and supplying drinks to staff

Can I supply drinks after permitted hours to my staff?

Q. Can I supply my staff with a drink after permitted hours once the pub is closed?

A. I shall assume you mean ‘alcohol drinks’, as supplying cold non-alcoholic drinks or hot non-alcoholic drinks, such as tea and coffee, is not a licensable activity. The answer will also depend upon whether there is an actual ‘sale’.

Sale of Alcohol

The old 1964 Licensing Act did permit the employer, at his own expense, to supply an alcoholic beverage to staff, to be consumed on the premises and whilst they finished off their duties. A number of licences in the England and Wales mention and retain this old right but for many, this no longer exists. nder the 2003 Licensing Act, a purchase by staff (or by management upon behalf of staff) after permitted hours is an offence. Maximum penalty – 6 months imprisonment and/or ?20K fine for each ‘sale/supply’. If no charge is made for the alcohol then no offence is committed. The sale does not take place necessarily when it is paid for but when it is dispensed for the member of staff to consume.

So, if it is dispensed before the end of permitted hours but consumed after permitted hours then no offence has been committed, even if it is paid for after hours, a legal contract has already been entered into. However, it would not be sensible to keep your tills open after the end of permitted hours as you may struggle to satisfy the police that orders were taken, and drinks dispensed, before the end of permitted hours. If staff are to have a drink after work and that drink is to be paid for, (whether directly by the staff member/employer; from tips or on the slate) then to ensure the sale is legal, you should take the orders and dispense the drinks before the end of permitted hours.

Breach of Opening Hours?

‘Opening hours’ under the 2003 Act mean the time the premises are open to the public. Employees are not members of the public. Therefore, provided it is only staff within the premises then it cannot be said that you are in breach of your ‘opening hours’ if those staff are enjoying a drink after work.

Promotions of Licensing Objectives

However, staff leaving late at night could have an adverse impact upon ‘public nuisance’ and possibly upon ‘crime and disorder’ and this could result in an application to review the premises licence. There are many examples of conditions which appear upon licences to control the indirect consequences of licensable activities, such as, restrictions on deliveries; refuse, etc.To avoid any complaints, it would be sensible to adopt the spirit of the old legislation, in that you allow the staff to stay for a drink after hours but only for a short period whilst finishing off duties.

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