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Variations to the premises licence

Tops tips to consider prior to lodging your variation application

I have been doing some variation applications recently for a long standing client who has acquired a number of new premises. Not only have they been horrified at some of the operating practices of the previous premises licence holder but they also face the headache of having to vary many of the licences after due diligence enquiries revealed a large number of obsolete and restrictive conditions.

When considering a variation it is important to think long term about how an extension of hours or amendment to the conditions could benefit your business:

  • Check the plans which attach to the premises licence. If you don’t have a copy, obtain one from the Licensing Authority and check that they match the current layout of the premises. If they do not, you could be trading unlawfully which may, in the most serious cases, result in enforcement action requiring you to close pending your licensed plans being updated. If any amendments to the licence are minor then you can probably use a Minor Variation at a cost of £89.

Your plan must show:

  • The extent of the boundary of the building and any external and internal walls. It must also show the perimeter of the premises if this is different (you may be licensing an outdoor area, for example a beer garden in which case this must be shown as well);
  • Location points of access to and egress from the premises;
  • Additional escape routes ;
  • If different licensable activities are taking place in different parts of the premises, the area/s within the premises used for each activity (if the whole premises is to be licensed for all activities then you do not need to distinguish).
  • Furniture, gaming machines or similar objects which may impact on the ability of individuals to use exits or escape routes without impediment;
  • Stages or raised areas together with the height;
  • Steps, stairs, elevators or lifts;
  • The location of any public conveniences;
  • Fire safety equipment; and
  • The kitchen (if any).

The above list is taken from the Regulations which set out the requirements for licensing plans. It is advisable to show only the required information on your plans. If the plans show more detail than this (which is acceptable and many do) some Licensing Authorities will require a variation application, even if you are only moving or changing non-compulsory elements.

You may still have embedded conditions from the old licensing regime that have not been removed from your licence. The most common are conditions restricting children in bars, a drinking up time of 20 minutes and the old “Public Entertainment Licence” conditions. Licensing Authorities are usually supportive of these types of conditions being removed from a premises licence.

Whilst thinking about old or conflicting conditions, also check any outdated restrictions on your hours for licensable activities and opening on days such as Christmas Day and Good Friday. These were common restrictions under the previous licensing regime and the removal of these is (technically) an extension of hours which will require a full variation.

Consider breakfast opening. An increasing number of pubs are rolling out a breakfast offer to rival their local coffee shops and it could prove to be very lucrative. Consider amending your opening hours for an earlier start with perhaps films and recorded music also varied to an earlier time so that customers can listen to music or watch films whilst enjoying their breakfast.
It is a good idea to fully review your licence before submitting any application for a variation. If the changes are small, you may be able to apply for a minor variation – otherwise, you may need a full application with a 28 day consultation period. In any event, it is better to make all of those changes in one application rather than having to address further changes later down the line.

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