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Late night refreshment – how far does it go?

Can I serve late night refreshment on the terrace area?

Q: I have a pub with an outside area that has a large TV screen. I am lucky because we are not in a residential area and if there are late night sporting events (for example, boxing matches) I can use the later hours on my licence to sell alcohol and provide entertainment without the fear of disturbing the neighbours. However, I would like to start offering food for these late night/early morning events but my authorisation for Late Night Refreshment only extends to the restaurant and bar area inside the building, and not the outdoor terraced area where the large TV screen is. Am I permitted to provide hot meals outside after 11:00pm if my licence allows Late Night Refreshment until 03:00am?

A: You ask a good question. Unlike the sale of alcohol, there are no ‘on and off’ sales of hot food or hot non-alcoholic drinks. You cannot therefore cook the food in an area that is licensed for Late Night Refreshment (e.g. inside the building) and then provide it after 11:00pm to an area that is not licensed (the outdoor area). This is because under the Licensing Act 2003 the licensable activity takes place at the point of provision of the hot food, that is, a waiter putting a plate on the customer’s table or a kebab shop owner leaning over the counter and handing the customer the doner kebab. In this sense Late Night Refreshment is different to the sale of alcohol, because the sale of alcohol almost always takes place at the bar as that is where the alcohol is specifically selected following a customer’s order.

In your case, you appear to have the necessary hours to provide Late Night Refreshment to your customers, but your outdoor area is not shown on your licensed plans and if your staff are bringing the hot food from the kitchen to the tables then it is the outdoor area that also needs to be licensed. This should hopefully simply require a minor variation of the licensed plans to include the outdoor area. Alternatively, you could dispense with any table service and require your customers to collect their hot food from inside the building which is licensed for the provision of Late Night Refreshment. They could then take their food outside and consume it at leisure (subject to your opening and closing times) as the consumption of hot food, like the consumption of alcohol, is not a licensable activity.

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