Q: I booked a private party at my pub a few weeks ago and I should have issued a TEN because my bar is opening later. However, I forgot and now it is too late even to issue a late TEN. I cannot cancel the booking, but I am going to have to give away the alcohol during the hours not covered by my premises licence. Can I recoup some of my losses by leaving a pot or something at the door for 'donations' to the cost of alcohol as people leave the party?
A: You must be extremely careful with this, both for legal and practical reasons. The law as to what constitutes a 'sale' of alcohol - or indeed anything else - is complex and I assume you do not wish to risk a Review or prosecution if the authorities' view is that you are selling alcohol. That having been said, if it was made perfectly clear to guests during the party that the alcohol during the later hours was free, and only at the end of the party were they informed of the option to contribute to the cost, such donations might be classed as ex-gratia and not forming part of a contract for the sale of alcohol. The onus would always be on you to prove that the alcohol was genuinely free with no strings attached, and this applies to the party as a whole, not just what you say to the guests: for example, if you marginally increased the price of food or the hire of the pub to reduce your shortfalls on alcohol sales, the law could treat this as a sale of the 'free' alcohol. It may be better to accept the consequences of missing the TEN deadline and put it down to experience. Otherwise, I strongly suggest you seek specific legal advice.
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