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Selling alcohol online

What type of licence do I need to sell alcohol online?

Q: We are thinking of starting an online arm of our micro-brewery, selling direct to the public over the Internet. We already have a premises licence for our brewery shop, but I wonder what type of licence we need to sell online?

A: We are asked this question in different forms quite often. There is no separate type of alcohol licence for selling over the Internet or indeed by telephone. A premises licence is what you need and depending upon where the alcohol is specifically selected following an order from a customer, your existing premises licence may in fact suffice.

Remember, it is where the sale of alcohol takes place that needs to be authorised, and in the case of telephone or Internet sales that sale does not take place at the call centre or in cyberspace, but in the warehouse or store where the alcohol is picked following the order.

You will also need ‘off’ sales authorised as clearly the sale is taking place for consumption off the premises. I would suggest starting by having a good look at your existing premises licence – does it authorise ‘off’ sales; are the times that your staff will select the alcohol following an order covered by the existing hours on the licence (remember, you may take an order but only pick the alcohol a couple of hours later)?; and are there any other conditions on your licence restricting your new venture? The Statutory Guidance states that you should contact your licensing authority to ask whether a variation to your licence is required – this is not strictly required, but is advisable nonetheless.

Also bear in mind that you must have an age verification policy in respect of your Internet sales, and consider the implications of your home deliveries. There are two elements to this requirement – firstly age verification to protect you from selling alcohol to someone under age at the point of order/selection; and secondly to comply with the Mandatory Condition which relates to when the alcohol is ‘served’ – in this case at the doorstep.

The Guidance suggests that your couriers or delivery drivers should therefore be instructed to ensure that age verification has taken place and that photo ID has been checked if the person appears to be less than 18 years of age. It may be advisable in your Terms and Conditions to incorporate a requirement that proof of age will be required in order for the delivery to take place.

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