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Background to the Licensing Act 2003

In 2001, the Government announced plans to reform the country’s licensing laws. From February 7th 2005, responsibility for liquor licensing transferred from the Magistrates Courts to the Council. These new laws will affect anyone who is concerned with:

  • Pubs and nightclubs
  • Indoor sporting events
  • Off licences
  • Restaurants that serve alcohol
  • Businesses offering hot food between 11pm and 5am
  • Hotels, guest houses and other places that sell alcohol
  • Private members’ clubs and social clubs
  • Theatres and amateur dramatic groups
  • Cinemas
  • Promoters or organisers of occasional entertainments

Under The Licensing Act 2003:

  • A premises licence is required where any of the above activities are going to take place

  • A personal licence is needed by anyone who wants to allow the sale of alcohol as part of his/her business

  • Licensees, Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council and other agencies must all work to promote the licensing objectives

  • Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council and not the Court, will deal with all licences listed

 The four licensing objectives are:

  • Prevention of crime and disorder

  • Prevention of public nuisance

  • Public safety

  • Prevention of harm to children

Premises licences

A premises licence can be granted either for a fixed time (for example, for a one-off occasional boxing match, disco or band) or indefinitely.

When applying for a premises licence, applicants will have to submit:

  • A plan of their premises
  • An Operating Schedule (description of how the premises will be operated safely)
  • An initial fee will be charged, followed by an annual renewal fee, depending on the size of the business. These fees are set by Central Government and have yet to be agreed.

Dudley MBC has a duty to grant licences unless it conflicts with one of the four Licensing Objectives. It may also impose conditions that promote the licensing objectives, for example requiring door supervisors in a nightclub to promote the crime prevention objective, or noise control measures to prevent public nuisance.

If representations are made about either granting or changing a licence in any way, the Council’s Licensing and Safety Committee (made up of councillors) will have to examine the application.

During the transition period, existing Licences were allowed to be converted to the new licensing system on the same terms as the existing licence. This was termed as ‘grandfather rights’ and licence holders were required to re-apply for new licences within 6 months of the beginning of the Transition and to supply original existing licences, plans and associated documents.

Community Centres, Church Halls etc.

It is likely that church buildings, community centres and village halls will be exempt from having to pay any fees

Objecting to licences

Local residents, residents’ and business associations may make representations to the Council about the grant of, or change in, a licence. A Licensing & Safety Committee made up of councillors will consider these as long as representations are not considered malicious, irrelevant or vexatious.

When a licence is first applied for, copies will also have to be sent to the ‘responsible authorities’ – the Police, local Environmental Health and Fire Authorities. In some cases, the Health and Safety Executive must also be notified. Each of these authorities can make representations about the application that can lead to either conditions being imposed or it being refused.

If someone wishes to appeal against a Council’s licensing decision, they will have the right to do so to the Magistrates Court.

Provisional statements

People who are considering opening licensed premises may apply for a provisional statement. This allows new premises to be prepared in the confidence that a full licence will be granted, providing that it is built according to the original Operating Schedule and plans submitted to the Council, and that there have been no material changes in the meanwhile.

Temporary Events Notices

The Government proposes that licences will not be needed for small events where less than 500 people are likely to attend, and which lasts for less than 168 hours at a time.

Someone who holds a personal licence may be able to hold up to 50 temporary events notices a year at other premises that are not licensed. Non-personal licence holders may be able to hold up to 5 temporary events a year. A Temporary Events Notice must be given to the Council before an event of this sort can be held, and the Police or Environmental Health may object to it on crime and disorder or public nuisance grounds.

Personal Licences

Personal licences will be needed to supervise the sale of alcohol in the majority of premises – including pubs, off-licences, restaurants, hotels etc; but not in registered clubs. You can apply to the Council for the area in which you live for a personal licence. It will then be the Council’s responsibility for continuing to licence you, even if you move away from the area.

Personal licences are valid indefinitely. There will be duties placed on holders of personal licences, and the Court can forfeit the licence if they are convicted of various offences.

Existing holders of justices’ licences were given ‘grandfather rights’ to transfer to a new Personal Licence. The Police will have the right in any case to object to a licensee on the grounds of crime prevention if someone has a relevant criminal conviction.

To get a personal licence you must:

  • Be over 18
  • Not have any relevant criminal convictions as spelt out in the Act
  • Possess an approved licensing qualification
  • Pay the required fee

Review Hearings

Sometimes, licensing premises can lead to problems. On the rare occasion this happens, the Council will try and resolve the issues informally. However, any of the ‘responsible authorities’, a local resident, or a residents’ or business association, can apply for the Council to review a licence.

Providing a complaint is not malicious, frivolous, vexatious or repetitive, a Council hearing will be held. The Council may decide not to do anything, or to impose extra conditions on the licence. It can also suspend either all or part of the licence for up to three months.

Licensing Policy

The Government has produced official guidance to the Act. The Council has developed its Licensing Policy having undertaken considerable consultation before it was finalised and formally adopted by the Council in December 2004. Since then the Dudley Licensing Policy has been reviewed as per the guidance. More information about Dudley MBC Licensing Policy