Published: 21 June 2021
In light of the Government announcement that the further easing of restrictions through step 4 has been delayed until the 19th July 2021 the question remains whether the hospitality industry will ever fully return to how it was pre-pandemic or will some of the measures now in place remain and become the new normal for licensed premises.
The pandemic has led to all venues being forced to introduce new safeguards in order to open and some having to diversify to be able to open – for example many nightclubs have effectively turned into pubs to reopen, bringing in tables and chairs for customers to be seated and served. In terms of the measures which may remain in place long term if the pandemic continues below is a summary of the key things to consider in your venue:
Ever since the Licensing Act 2003 was first mooted people have talked about a “café culture”, with an early Select Committee referring to an “urban renaissance”, concluding with the words “Bologna in Birmingham, Madrid in Manchester, why not?” Nobody could have predicted that the closest we would ever get to a café culture was not due to a sudden change in cultural mores or a balmy additional 10 degrees in the average temperature, but a pandemic.
COVID forced us outside. Operating an outside business has many benefits and of course some drawbacks, but here are some points to consider as we move out of lockdown, if you want to continue to use outside space:
The plight of the hospitality industry in the pandemic has been well documented and sadly stories of insolvency and premises closures are currently all too common. It has therefore never been more important for licensees to safeguard their premises licences and for buyers and landlords to be aware of the potential pitfalls of lapsed licences. Below are a few helpful hints and reminders:-
A premises licence automatically lapses at the onset of any form of insolvency of the premises licence holder, but can be “resurrected” as outlined below.
If a licence holder is about to be made insolvent or bankrupt then they should ensure that the premises licence is transferred to a solvent company or individual prior to the insolvency event. If a premises licence lapses it is of course an offence to carry on any licensable activities at the premises.
If it is not possible to find another company or individual to transfer the premises licence to, then there are two options available to “resurrect” the premises licence after it lapses.
Firstly, an insolvency practitioner can submit an interim authority notice (after the insolvency event) which allows them to hold the premises licence for a maximum period of three months within which period an application to transfer the licence to a company or individual must be made, otherwise the licence lapses permanently. Alternatively, within 28 days of the onset of insolvency the premises licence can be transferred which would again have the effect of “resurrecting” the licence. However, if this deadline is missed then the licence will be lost and cannot be “resurrected”. In that case a new premises licence application would be required and there is no guarantee that a new licence will be granted with the same permissions as the lapsed licence.
A premises licence is a valuable asset and can add significant value to a property, especially within cumulative impact areas where Councils are extremely reluctant to grant new licences. We therefore advise landlords whose licensed premises are operated by a tenant to consider applying for ‘shadow premises licences’ to protect their assets in case a tenant licence holder becomes insolvent or bankrupt.
The term ‘shadow premises licence’ describes the situation where a premises licence is granted to one party in respect of a premises where another party already holds a separate licence. Shadow licences are typically granted on the same terms as the existing licence being operated by the tenant.
It is imperative that any buyers looking to acquire licensed premises make appropriate licensing due diligence enquiries before entering into an agreement. Although a seller may present a copy of a premises licence, the buyer should ensure that the licence is up to date and is, and previously has been, held in the name of an active company or individual.
The effect of insolvency on premises licences is complex and these comments are only a summary, so we strongly advise that any affected parties seek legal advice as soon as possible.
The Covid 19 pandemic has changed the face of many towns and cities and unfortunately, we have seen the closure of many nightclubs up and down the country. Other licensed venues may now look at whether there may be an opportunity to extend their hours.
Before you look to submit an application to extend your hours to the Licensing Authority you may want to take a moment to consider the following:
With the rise in home delivery and takeaway in recent years, accelerated by the pandemic, many operators such as our online delivery and restaurant clients have seen this as a great way to expand business. However, it is not without licensing implications, which operators must address to ensure they are compliant with the law. Here are key points to consider, however if in doubt, seek legal advice.
Last year we published a detailed Coronavirus pre-opening checklist, and whilst the process of re-opening has to many been one of tortuous evolution rather than speedy revolution, many of those considerations remain relevant today. So, whatever stage you are at with re-opening your hospitality business, here are some key points:
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