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Separate licences for a joint venture

Can I operate a table-dancing venue under my partners premises licence?

Q: A friend of mine owns a large wine bar which is rarely full, so we have decided to go into business together, with me renting an area which I will operate as an exclusive table dancing venue with a restaurant. Can I do this under his Premises Licence?

A: You have not stated whether or not the wine bar has the benefit of a Sexual Entertainment Venue Licence (SEV). If not, you may need one if your local council has adopted the requirement for adult entertainment venues to have a SEV and you intend to provide live entertainment which involves nudity for the purposes of sexually stimulating an audience.

Before you can apply for an SEV, you will require a valid Premises Licence issued under the Licensing Act 2003. The premises has a Premises licence and if your friend also has an SEV, the holder of both licences is likely to be an individual, individuals or a company.

One option you therefore have is to transfer yourself as an individual onto both licences or, alternatively, and if appropriate, you could become another director of the company holding the licences.

You would still need to provide a formal notification of the change in respect of the SEV to the relevant licensing department, but you would be able to operate under the parameters of the existing licences.

Any amendment to the layout of the plans, times, addition of licensable activities or removal or addition of conditions will require a variation of the licence at the very least or, alternatively, a new Premises Licence depending on the views of the Licensing Authorities.

The main problem with this option is that, as the Premises Licence Holder, you may find yourself being responsible for any problems arising from your friend’s operation of his part of the premises.

For example, if customers from your friend’s wine bar were involved in disorder any enforcement action could put both licences at risk and could result in you, as an individual or as a director, being prosecuted for offences under the Licensing Act.

I would suggest that one of the safest ways to protect yourself would be to apply for a Premises Licence and SEV in your own right, purely to cover the area you intend to rent. The applications may mirror the terms of the existing licences, but you have the option to tailor the conditions to the style of your operation.

Care should be taken, as there may be many additional issues to address such as whether the premises are within a Cumulative Impact Area. This would result in you having to show that the grant of a new premises licence would not add to crime and disorder or public nuisance in the area.

Additionally, the Council also has the option of and may have already restricted the number of SEV licences to be granted in their area.

Some form of pre-consultation with the authorities would be of benefit, and early legal advice is recommended before entering any rental agreement or commitment towards this joint venture.

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