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Time for a change

Top Tips on the processes for changing the terms of your premises licence

There are many reasons why a licence holder may wish to change the terms of their premises licence. Small administrative changes and DPS variations have their own straightforward processes. Any other changes, for example to the hours, activities, conditions or plans attached to the licence are likely to require an application.

Before 2009, very slight licence changes could be dealt with informally. More significant changes required a variation (referred to as a “full” or a “major” variation – here I will use the term “full variation”). These require a notice to be displayed on the premises for the 28 day consultation period, an advert in the paper and attract a council fee ranging from £100 to £1,905. If representations are received to the application which cannot be resolved, the decision will be made by the Licensing Sub Committee.

In 2009, a new “minor variation” procedure was introduced. The purpose of this new procedure was to allow uncontentious licence changes to be processed more quickly and cheaply. The fee is £89, there is a shorter consultation period, less consultees and no newspaper advert required. However, with minor variations the final decision rests with the Licensing Authority. If they think the application could not adversely affect the licensing objectives, they must grant it. Otherwise, they must refuse it.

Deciding whether the changes you are planning should be a minor or a full variation can be a delicate matter. On the one hand, the minor variation procedure can save you time and expense. However, if it is rejected and you submit a full variation you will have to wait even longer for the changes to be dealt with and incur further costs than if you had submitted a full variation in the first place. Here is some guidance to help you, and if in any doubt take legal advice.

  • You may wish to seek guidance from your local Licensing, Police and Environmental Health Officers before submitting any application.
  • The minor variation process is useful for dealing with minor changes to the layout of the premises, small adjustments to hours, the removal of outdated, unenforceable or irrelevant conditions, the addition of conditions and the addition (or removal) of certain licensable activities.
  • The minor variation procedure cannot be used to make any significant changes to the premises licence, add or extend the sale of alcohol or extend a time limited licence.
  • A full variation may be required if, for example, the changes will increase the capacity for drinking on the premises, affect access or impede any noise reduction measures.
  • If the Police and Environmental Health have concerns about any of the proposed changes which cannot be resolved, it is likely that they will object to the application. If you have submitted a minor variation, the Licensing Authority will consider any representations and if they think the application could adversely affect the licensing objectives they must refuse it. If you have submitted a full variation which receives representations the Licensing Committee will make the decision.
  • Certain licensable activities, including live and recorded music, have been de-regulated and you might want to first consider whether you can benefit from this before proceeding with a formal application.
  • If you have submitted a minor variation and you have not received a decision from the Licensing Authority within 15 working days, the application is deemed refused and the authority must return your fee (unless you come to an agreement with the authority to use the fee towards a new minor variation application).

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