Q: I recently issued a minor variation application to remove a condition from my Premises Licence. The Licensing Authority has advised that the application was unsuccessful because of a representation received from one of the Responsible Authorities. They have advised that I speak with a solicitor, what are my options?
A: The minor variation application was an excellent innovation to simplify the application process, where there was minimal change proposed to the Premises Licence or Club Premises Certificate. The Licensing Authority and Responsible Authorities do however have an underlying responsibility to ensure that any changes requested do not compromise the promotion of the four licensing objectives. Some commentary about the effect of the change proposed on the promotion of the four licensing objectives is mandatory, and should be part of the consideration during the preparation of the application.
Having said the minor variation is an excellent tool, it is also rather blunt in its application. It requires almost a crystal ball on occasions, to ensure that all the Responsible Authorities will be comfortable with its content. Agreement with, for example, the Police to remove conditions may not meet with the agreement of the Environmental Health Officer.
Requests made on minor applications, which are deemed to be in any way controversial, will need to be thought through prior to their issue. The process almost requires that you risk assess the process, determine what you wish to achieve, and consider the additional barriers created and controls required for the proposal. For example, use of a premises during the day by underage persons accompanied by adults, will almost certainly require that you ensure that all bar staff have received additional training on age related issues, notwithstanding the training that they would normally have had for a premises which only allows persons over the age of 18 into it in the evening or night time economy. Whilst the response from the Licensing Authority to a minor variation must be within 5 working days of the end of the consultation period of 10 working days, the total period of the application often takes a full 3 weeks. With a full variation, which will generally cost more that the fixed £89 fee for a minor variation, some negotiation about the proposal, if it is in any way controversial, can usually be achieved during the (28 day) representation period.
The recommendation to talk to a solicitor will probably identify immediately where the issues lie and which application is more appropriate. A full variation with consideration of the issues, and added conditions which demonstrate that you have considered the promotion of the 4 licensing objectives, is more likely to succeed. A minor variation fee can be partially used to offset the fee for the full variation.
The minor variation is a great innovation, but can be a false economy in certain circumstances, and can lead to a delay of 3 weeks if the application is refused, rather than providing any certainty that the requested changes will be available to you at the end of that period.