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Variation of Premises Licence – Extending Hours

Local residents may lodge an appeal to the grant of my licence - will I be at risk of having to pay costs?

Q:  I recently applied to vary my premises licence to extend the hours for licensable activities at my bar to 2am.  Trade has increased recently and therefore the demand is there but local residents objected and the application had to be considered at a hearing before the Licensing Sub-Committee.  The Committee granted the premises licence but the residents have now told the Council that they are going to appeal.  I was involved in an appeal a number of years ago with a previous employer and, upon losing the appeal, the company had to pay thousands of pounds in costs.  I am concerned that if the local residents appeal the decision, I am going to be at risk of having to pay costs.

A:  An appeal can be a risky business in terms of costs.  If a local residents appeals, he/she will be known as the Appellant with the Licensing Authority becoming the Respondent and you, the premises licence holder, the Second Respondent.  Much depends upon whether the Appeal can be compromised by agreement between the parties, in which case the issue of costs should be part of that agreement. If the Appeal goes to a fully contested hearing with legal representation on all sides then yes, such cases can amount to tens of thousands of pounds in costs, and the loser usually pays. The subject of costs is very complex, however, often with different rules applying for licensing authorities (who, as public bodies often have a degree of protection against paying adverse costs) rather than businesses or local residents (who generally don’t). The danger with this situation is where the Licensing Authority decide to take a step back and are reluctant to assist you in defending the appeal.  The best case scenario is that you have a united front with the Licensing Authority in terms of collating your evidence and defending the appeal, which you should urge them to do as they clearly supported your case in the first instance.

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