The Licensing Act 2003, which came into effect in November 2005, allows premises licence holders to sell alcohol for consumption on the premises (known as ‘on-sales’) or for consumption off the premises (known as ‘off-sales’) or both.
In response to the unparalleled crisis that hit the hospitality industry due to the COVID pandemic, the Business and Planning Act 2020 provided regulatory easements which let on-sales premises licence holders automatically carry out off-sales, without any need to amend their licence.
When pubs and restaurants were initially closed because of the pandemic, they were able to sell alcohol for take-away, which – for many – was a real economic lifeline.
Additionally, once premises were able to re-open, this automatically enabled them to serve alcohol in the area covered by any pavement licence that they had.
The government has now decided that it is time to look at the position regarding licences but does not believe it would be a good idea to go back to the way things were before 2020.
However, they have said that they would welcome views on the matter and have therefore opened a consultation process to find out
- whether there is support for making the regulatory easement permanent so that on-sales premises licence holders can continue to automatically make off-sales;
- any off-sales should be restricted to the area covered by a pavement licence, with that area automatically deemed to be included in the premises plan.
Temporary events notices (TENs)
Under the Licensing Act, licensable activities can be carried out on a one-off basis without the need for a premises licence or any other authorisation. This is done by means of a temporary event notice.
Licensable activities include the sale of alcohol, the provision of late-night refreshment and regulated entertainment. A temporary event notice can be used by a licensed premises to extend its hours beyond its usual closing time or to carry out licensable activities it is not usually able to do.
The Business and Planning Act 2020 temporarily increased the annual number of Temporary Event Notices (TENs) that a licensed premises user can have in respect of a premises from 15 to 20 per year. It also increased the maximum number of days on which temporary events may be held at such premises from 21 to 26 per year.
What are the proposals?
Option 1: Do nothing. This means that the easements provided by the Business and Planning Act 2020 lapse after 30th September 2023 and arrangements go back to the way things were under the Licensing Act 2003. Any premises licence holder whose licence only allows on-sales will need to apply for a variation if they additionally wish to provide off-sales.
Option 2: Make the temporary regulatory easements for off-sales under the Business and Planning Act 2020 permanent. Any on-sales alcohol premises licence would then automatically cover off-sales as well. This would apply to existing and future premises licence holders.
Option 3: If a venue has both an alcohol premises licence and a pavement licence, the area covered by the pavement licence would be automatically included in the premises licence.
Temporary events notices (TENs)
Option 4: Do nothing. This means that the easements provided by the Business and Planning Act 2020 lapse after 31st December 2023. The number of TENs permitted will go back to the numbers set out in the Licensing Act 2003 (15 TENs per year for a total of 21 days).
Option 5: Extend the easement for a further twelve months, until 31st December 2024. This would mean that the number of TENs permitted will be 20 (from 15) and the maximum duration will be 26 days (from 21).
Option 6: Make the extension to the number of permitted TENs provided by the Business and Planning Act 2020 permanent. This would mean that the number of TENs permitted will be 20 (from 15) and the maximum duration will be 26 days (from 21). This would apply to existing and future premises licence holders.
The consultation began on 6th March 2023 and ends on 1st May 2023. Hospitality sector representatives described the proposals as “overwhelmingly positive” and they strongly urged the Government to follow through on them. Pub owners and other businesses whose livelihoods depend on their alcohol licences are encouraged to participate in the consultation to ensure that a wide spectrum of stakeholders from the sector are represented.