Frequently Asked Questions on The Licensing Act 2003
What is the purpose of the Act?
The overall aim is to modernise the legislation governing the sale and supply of alcohol and public entertainment licensing so that:
- various existing pieces of legislation are brought under a single Act;
- licensing decisions are made according to local considerations;
- licensing hours are deregulated (i.e. the current restrictions on the hours when alcohol can be sold are to be removed).
Who, in Government, is responsible for the Act?
The Department for Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS). The Department's Secretary of State is Rt Hon Tessa Jowell MP and the Minister responsible for the Act is Rt Hom Richard Caborn MP. Andrew Cunningham is the lead civil servant as Head of Alcohol and Entertainment Licensing Policy Branch. Rt Hon the Lord (Andrew) McIntosh of Haringey is responsible for the Act in the House of Lords.
Where can I obtain a copy of the Act and related documents?
The Act and Explanatory Notes can be viewed via Her Majesty's Stationary Officer website: http://www.opsi.gov.uk/acts/acts2003a. The Draft Guidance issued under Section 182 of the Act can be accessed via the DCMS website (details below).
What are the 'licensing objectives'?
Licensing Authorities must perform their duties according to the four 'licensing objectives' contained in the Act (Section 4). These are:
- The prevention of crime and disorder
- Public safety
- The protection of children from harm
- The prevention of public nuisance
What are licensable activities?
There are four licensable activities contained within the Act (Section 1):
- retail sale of alcohol
- supply of alcohol by or on behalf of a club, or to the order of a member of the club
- provision of late night refreshment
- provision of regulated entertainment to the public or club members
What is regulated entertainment?
Subject to qualifying conditions, and exemptions, the definitions are contained within the Schedule 1 of the Act and are:
- An exhibition of a film
- A performance of a play
- An Indoor sporting event
- A boxing or wrestling entertainment
- Live music performances
- Playing of recorded music
- A performance of dance
- Provision of facilities for making music
- Provision of dancing facilities
It should be noted however that there are a number of exemptions to the above list outlined in Schedule 1, part 2 of the Licensing Act 2003.
What is late night refreshment?
Late night refreshment, subject to the relevant exemptions, is defined in Schedule 2 of the Act and is broadly, hot food or drink supplied to members of the public, on or from any premises, whether for consumption on or off premises, between the hours of 11.00pm and 5.00am. This will require take-away food outlets to obtain a premises licence in order to operate after 11.00pm.
How often does a licensing policy need to be published?
Licensing policy statements will need to be determined and published every three years, following consultation with a number of statutory agencies and interested persons as set-out in the Act (Section 5). In between each three-year period the Council will to keep its policy under review and make revisions as it considers appropriate.
What types of licence are there?
- Personal Licence - This is a portable licence granted to an individual enabling him/her to sell alcohol at premises licensed for the sale of alcohol. The licence's duration is ten years.
- Premises Licence - This is a licence granted in relation to specific premises and will specify the nature of the licensable activity and any applicable conditions.
- Club Premises Licence - This is a licence granting 'qualifying club' status specific premises, according to a number of qualifying conditions, including the provision that there are at least 25 members and that alcohol is only supplied by or on behalf of the club.
- Temporary Event Notice - this 'notice' permits the carrying-out of specified licensable activities for a restricted time period (maximum 96 hours). There are a number of further limitations with regard to such 'notices' detailed in Part 5, Section 107 of the Act.
- Provisional Statement - This is an 'interim' statement as regards the provision of a Premises Licence where the premises has not yet been built and provides the investors with some degree of certainty as to the future use of the premises.
What are the qualification requirements for the Personal Licence?
Applicants for a Personal Licence will need to hold a licensing qualification that has been accredited by the Secretary of State. The aim of this provision is to ensure that licence holders are aware of licensing law and the wider social responsibilities attached to the sale of alcohol. The syllabus is available visa the DCMS' website:
Existing holders of justices licenses will qualify for a personal licence without a licensing qualification under 'Grandfather Rights'.
What is Designated Premises Supervisor?
A Designated Premises Supervisor must hold a Personal Licence and is the person specified on the Premises Licence who is responsible for authorising the supply of alcohol. This person must be readily identifiable and will normally be given day-to-day responsibility for running the premises.
How are applications made?
During the transition period (which will begin on February 7th 2005, and is expected to last until November 2005) there will be three key types of applications which need to be made to licensing authorities:
- Conversion applications - These are applications made within the first 6 months of the transition period whereby there will be a presumption that existing licensed premises will be granted a new 'Premises Licence' unless there are any police objections on grounds of crime and disorder.
- Variation applications during transition - These are applications made within the first 6 months of the transition period where a 'conversion' application has already been granted and the applicant wishes to vary a part of his/her current licence permissions. For example, he/she may wish to extend their hours. Although the government is yet to publish the fees, it has been indicated that there will be only one fee charged for conversion and variation applications.
- New applications - These are applications made by persons who either do not hold a licence at the start of the transition period, or have missed the conversion / variation deadlines for applications during transition, but wish to have a licence effective from the end of the transition period.
Following the end of transition, all licence applications will be 'new applications' and subsequent 'variations'.
When are the licenses under the Licensing Act 2003 effective?
Applications for licences under the new system can be received from the '1st appointed day', however new licences will not become effective until after the end of the transition period i.e. on the '2nd appointed day'. This is likely to be around November 2005.
How can an applicant either vary an existing licence, or apply for a new licence that is to be effective before the end of the transition period?
The applicant must apply to either the Magistrates' Court (with regard to liquor licenses) or to their local authority (with regard to public entertainment licenses), as these licensing systems continue to run in parallel with the provisions of the Licensing Act 2003, until the '2nd appointed day'.
What is an 'operating schedule'?
An 'operating schedule' is required as part of a premises licence / club premises certificate application. Whilst the precise detail of each will be slightly different the key details on the 'operating schedule' will be: when and which of the licensable activities are planned to take place at the premises; other times when the public will be present at the premises; who the designated premises supervisor is; and the steps the licence holder will take to promote the licensing objectives.