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The law of unintended consequences

I did not agree to conditions imposed on my licence - what can I do?

Q: I run a public house and I applied for a variation of my Premises Licence to extend the times for the sale of alcohol and to allow me to trade later hours on Fridays and Saturdays. This attracted residential objections but, after a hearing, I was granted my application in full. A month later, I received the Council’s written Decision Notice and I saw that this incorporated additional restrictive conditions relating to CCTV and doorstaff, and a reduction in the hours of licensable activities on a Thursday, none of which I had agreed to. I tried to contact my local Licensing Officer, but I have difficulty in getting anyone to discuss this. Is there anything I can do?

A: First and foremost, this issue is potentially a matter which will have to be dealt with by way of an appeal to the relevant Magistrates’ Courts. The Appeal must be lodged within 21 days from receipt of the written Decision Notice.

Obviously, if you have time, then I suggest that you continue to attempt to contact the Licensing department and, if necessary, escalate it to the head of their department. This should be followed up by way of either letters and / or e-mails, making sure you also record the dates and times of any telephone calls or conversations, and keep copies of all physical correspondence – this is very important if you subsequently have to appeal because it proves you did everything you could to avoid the cost of issuing an appeal, and it might help you claim your legal costs of appealing.

The errors in the Decision Notice may well be administrative, and ones which can be rectified once you have spoken to the relevant Licensing Officer. Failing a satisfactory response, you may well wish to write to the Council’s Legal Advisor, who actually advised the Councillors at your hearing (their details are usually shown in the agenda issued to you in advance of the hearing). Should all else fail, then you may have no choice but to consider the option of appealing the Committee’s decision to the Magistrates’ Courts. I would suggest that you seek legal advice at this stage, because appealing a decision of the Licensing Committee can be a complex and costly affair. However, by doing this, you may well encourage the Council’s Licensing department to respond and consider the situation carefully, looking at any suitable compromise.

If the Council challenges your grounds of appeal, it is worth requesting copies of the hand written minutes taken at the hearing, and some Councils also record or video their proceedings. Obviously, copies of these would be of assistance.

If the Council decides to fight the appeal, your biggest risk is that potentially you could end up paying all or a portion of the Council’s legal fees if you lost. These costs vary, but can reach tens of thousands of pounds in some cases. Proper legal advice and representation is therefore crucial to ensure that you mitigate this risk.

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