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Removal of conditions when converting a licence

Make sure you review the conditions on the premises licence

Q: I have just leased a premises which used to be a nightclub. I am converting it into a top-end restaurant, but I have noticed the Premises Licence has conditions requiring an extensive CCTV system, the use of polycarbonate glasses at all times, the use of door staff from 21.00 and no children on the premises at any time. Although the premises can open until 4am all week, and there is a capacity of 450, I cannot operate with the other conditions. What are my options?

A: As you will appreciate, restaurants very rarely cause major issues as far as the licensing objectives are concerned. As a result of your late hours and large capacity, you are in a strong bargaining position, and you may wish to use this when negotiating the removal or amendment of the onerous conditions with the Licensing Officer, Police and Environmental Health Officers.

You must be prepared to lose your later hours. However, the Authorities (particular the police) would not agree to remove the conditions associated with the late night operation, unless the hours themselves also go (probably reducing the terminal alcohol for the sale of alcohol to midnight). This is the price which you will have to pay for getting rid of the onerous conditions.

Some authorities will insist that you submit an application for a new Premises Licence, as you are substantially altering the nature of the operation from a nightclub to a restaurant. You will then incorporate an operating schedule which is tailored to the use of your premises as a restaurant.

If you are considering a new application, care should be taken to ensure that your premises are not located in a Cumulative Impact Area, as there is an automatic presumption that the application will be refused unless you can show that your premises does not add to the alcohol related issues currently existing in the area. This is not that easy to do! I also anticipate that if your application is granted, the Local Authority will request that you surrender the ‘old’ Premises Licence.

If the Local Authority take a pragmatic view, they may agree to you submitting an application for a full variation of the existing licence. They may well be thankful for the conversion of the nightclub (and the associated issues) to a restaurant. In this case, ensure that you liaise with the Police, Environmental Health and Licensing departments. Hopefully, you will come to an agreement with them as to which conditions can be removed, amended or added. Even if you cannot come to an agreement, you will still have the opportunity of having the variation heard and decided by a Local Authority’s Licensing Committee.

Finally, but I must state, that this is unlikely, the Local Authority may agree to you amending the licence by way of a minor variation. Again, it would be wise to consult with the Local Authorities, but this time it is crucial that you do come to some form of an agreement.

Under these provisions, the Local Authority can reject your application if they believe that the changes to your Premises Licence will adversely affect the licensing objectives. Under these provisions, you do not have an option of a hearing before the Licensing Sub-Committee. A rejection would cause a delay and you may find yourself having to apply for a full variation in any event.

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