Published: 10 February 2023 by Carl Weston, Head of Marketing and Partner (non-solicitor)
You might have noticed that the legal process of premises licence reviews has been in the national news more than usual recently.
This was due to two incredibly sad incidents that took place just a couple of weeks apart. The first being a crush at the Brixton Academy which resulted in the death of two people; and the second involved the fatal stabbing of a customer at Birmingham nightclub, Crane.
In both incidents, the police used the legal process of a summary review, which resulted in both venue’s premises licences being temporarily suspended. At the full hearing, the premises licence for the Birmingham nightclub was revoked.
Such reviews are a complicated area of licensing law. So below, you can learn about what a premises licence review is, and what you can do if you are facing one.
UPDATE: On 24th January 2023, and following the incident detailed above, Crane nightclub had its premises licence permanently revoked by a licensing committee.
And in another example, a nightclub in Derbyshire has had its premises licence revoked. This comes after 47 incidents over the course of a year, including someone being stabbed and another being glassed. More details here:
A premises licence review is a serious legal matter. It can cost you a lot of money to manage, can generate bad PR for your business and, in the worst case, lead you to losing a premises licence forever.
So how does a premises get reviewed?
Well, let’s start at the start.
Every licensed premises in England and Wales must be run against a set of four Licensing Objectives; these being
When you read the term licensed premises, you might well be thinking of a place which sells alcohol. And you would be right.
But there are others too. Namely a premises which provides regulated entertainment or one which has a late night refreshment licence allowing for the sale of hot food and drink between 11pm and 5am; these are usually fast food takeaways.
So, if your premises is thought to be breaching any of these four Objectives, your licence can be reviewed.
You might be surprised to learn that anybody can request a review. For example, this could be a local resident claiming that you have been selling alcohol to under 18s*, an environmental health officer who might have concerns over the noise coming from your premises, or the police who might suspect criminal activity or that your premises is a magnate for anti-social behaviour.
*Just for clarity, in some circumstances under 18s can legally drink alcohol on licensed premises, but not actually purchase it. There are strict rules around this.
Anyway, back to reviews. There are two types: standard and summary (also called expedited).
Once your council receives an application to review your licence and the legal process starts, there is a 28-day consultation period. During this time, others can add objections to support the review; and a public notice is placed at the premises giving details for the review.
Once the 28-day consultation period has ended, your licensing authority will hold a premises licence review hearing to decide their actions; which can range from something simple such as removing your designated premises supervisor who they might feel is not in day-to-day control of the operation, through to revoking your premises licence; effectively closing your business.
You might be relieved to learn that a licensing authority can reject an application to review if they feel the reasons are frivolous or vexatious. Importantly, this rejection only applies to applications from interested parties, such as residents or a local business.
If the application to review your premises is from a responsible authority, such as the police, your local authority will not reject the request.
And even if your licensing authority does not reject the review, you have the right to appeal its decision. To do this, you must appeal to your local magistrates’ court within 21 days of your licence holder being notified of the decision. And any decision that was taken at the review, will not be enforced until the end of the period allowed for the appeal, so you could carry on trading during this time period.
Note – changing the decision of a licensing committee is very difficult. This is because, in simple terms, you would need to persuade the court that the licensing committee came to the wrong conclusion the first time around.
If you are facing a summary review (sometimes called an expedited review) it is because the issues surrounding your premises relate to serious crime and disorder. Only the police can request a summary review.
This review is asked for when the police want your local authority to consider ‘interim steps within 48 hours’ whilst waiting for the full review to take place.
These interim steps could include:
You can appeal the decision taken during the interim steps period. And you can appeal the final decision at the full review. However, licensing authorities/magistrates courts can, and often do, reject such appeals. So, if your licence is suspended pending a full review, or revoked at the final hearing, you will most likely not be able to trade in any period of waiting.
It is a fact of life in the licensed trade that, from time-to-time, operators end up facing reviews. And as already explained, these can have huge consequences.
But no matter what type of review you end up facing, our licensing solicitors can help you. The have appeared in 100’s of hearings the length and breadth of the country, helping operators in the direst of situations where emotions are running high: not a job for the faint hearted!
It goes without saying that the law has always depended on knowledge. Solicitors who are better informed and armed with the benefit of experience often seal the best outcomes for their clients. This is the overwhelming reason why so many operators work with our licensing solicitors to solve their licensing needs.
So, if you need help with a premises licence review, or any other licensing issue for that matter, you could not be in safer hands than those of our specialist licensing solicitors.
But don’t just take our words for here, we’re bound to say how great we are.
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