Published: 23 November 2023
There’s no denying the enthusiasm you feel when Michael Bublé’s, ‘It’s Beginning to Look a Lot like Christmas’ consumes our radios, TVs, retail spaces and homes.
This can mean just one thing: it’s finally Christmas!
And to the trade, maybe this year more than ever due to the relentless economic hits it has taken, it is probably more crucial than ever.
So, we thought that we could make it a little easier for you by producing a simple licensing ‘best practice’ guide. This will help you steer clear of falling foul of licensing law.
In a nutshell, you can remind yourself about:
Holiday cheer and high spirits have always been associated with the festive period, but given the year we’ve faced, some people might indulge in alcohol a little too much. And if your customers do, do you know what to do?
Unfortunately, there is a lack of clear guidance on assessing if people are drunk or not. So, we thought that giving you some basic advice around this issue would be helpful. And you won’t be surprised to hear that this advice, like so much in the trade, is centered around training.
But before we look at this, remember that it is illegal to knowingly sell alcohol to someone who is drunk. It is also illegal to knowingly allow alcohol to be sold to someone who is drunk.
Practical actions you can take:
Another prevalent issue at Christmas time is the issue of underage sales, not least because premises are often very busy which can makes things a little trickier.
And this is one which always causes some confusion around the age of which children can drink alcohol on licensed premises.
So to help, here is your list of 12 tips which you can use to minimise the chances of underage drinking on your premises.
Something to keep in mind, which is always one of the most asked questions we receive, is when can an under 18 drink alcohol on licensed premises. The Licensing Act 2003 states that a 16 or 17 year old may consumer beer, wine or cider with a table meal as long as the alcohol is purchased by someone over the age of 18.
We know this causes lots of anxiety among many operators who are, quite rightly, scared of breaking the law in relation to underage sales.
Similarly, many operators choose to exclude under-18s from their premises altogether, irrespective of whether that is a condition of their premises licence or not.
It is worth noting that while the law may permit the sale, there is nothing to prevent you from exercising discretion and having a policy which refuses service to under 18s.
This is something to consider as the busy festive season fast approaches.
The festive period is a fun time. It’s not called the party season for nothing.
So naturally, it is a time when many licensed premises hold parties or have extensions to their trading hours, often by applying for a temporary events notice.
Noise, however, is one of the most complained about issues for licensed premises. And, anecdotally at least, there seems to be a rise post Covid lockdown.
With noise, like so much in the licensing world, it is better to be proactive rather than reactive. So here are some practical tips for keeping the noise down:
If your party does result in a visit from your Environmental Health Officer who serves you a noise abatement notice, take advice on whether or not you should appeal.
You need to be quick, as you only have 21 days beginning with the date of service of the notice in which to do so.
This area of law is a very technical one but at the very least appealing the Notice may protect you from prosecution in the short term should you breach it and also provide you with some leverage in negotiations with the EHO as to a longer term solution.
You might be thinking you want live music, recorded music, performance of plays and dance, or even Christmas classic films.
Check that the activities authorised by your premises licence are correctly licensed for your festive activities. Check this as early as possible.
If the activities you need are not on your premises licence or the hours for which they are permitted is not sufficient, you should consider applying for a temporary event notice (TEN). Many premises licences allow an extension of hours on certain notable days over Christmas and the new year and it is worth checking these as it can save the time and expense of applying for a TEN.
If you are intending to run a film night and play all the Christmas classics ensure that your premises licence permits the exhibition of films. If the movie happens to be broadcasting live on television, you will not need authorisation. You will also need copyright authorisation from the relevant film distributor, such as a licence from Filmbank, the British Film Institute or the Motion Picture Licensing Company.
Planning on offering a disco or live music event? Check your premises licence to ensure that you have the correct permissions and that there are no conditions restricting the times for any entertainment.
Remember, a lot of entertainment no longer needs permission until 11 pm. Also, if you are close to local residents and plan to hold an event that is likely to result in higher levels of noise than they may be used to, speak to them prior to the event.
Many people have time off work at Christmas and are likely to be at home more than normal, so the risk of disturbance can be higher.
Games such as poker and bingo are popular all year round but they can be especially appealing during the festive period.
Poker and bingo are permitted in licensed premises but there are strict restrictions on the amount of stakes and prizes and you should take advice on these before offering poker or bingo.
This is where are specialist gambling solicitors come in hand, speak to them here.
The festive period will likely involve Police Drink and Drive Campaigns showing disturbing images and reinforcing the devastating effect that ‘just one more’ drink can have on families.
You will be aware of the unpredictability of those who drink mainly during the festive season and indeed of regular drinkers, but what about your responsibilities if they propose to drive home?
No matter how socially unacceptable and dangerous it is, if one of your customers decided to drink and drive, it is their personal responsibility. However, as a licensee, you do have a responsibility to encourage responsible alcohol consumption on your premises.
It might be helpful to increase the general awareness of your non or low alcohol drink offers. There has certainly been an increase in the number of alcohol-free or low alcohol drinks options available.
It is always good practice to ensure you have some measures in place so that you can offer your customers an alternative to driving home at the end of the evening. The measures could include ensuring you have telephone numbers of local taxi firms available and offering to call your customer a taxi if they need one.
If parking is available, confirming you are happy for customers to leave their cars in your car park, at their own risk, might encourage people to find alternative ways to get home.
Can’t find what you’re looking for?