The Licensing Act 2003 – an update

United Kingdom

On 8 June 2005 the government finally confirmed when the old licensing regime will end and the new licensing regime will come fully into effect. From Thursday, 24 November 2005 - the Second Appointed Day - everyone who sells alcohol, puts on entertainment or serves hot food after 11pm must have the requisite new licences to be able to continue to trade.

The time for making applications to convert old licences into new ones began on 7 February 2005 and ends on 6 August 2005. Licensees must submit their applications within this period in order to take advantage of the various “grandfather” rights. If they do not, they will have to make applications for new licences which will be more onerous and the outcome cannot be guaranteed. For instance, under the new law in order to hold a personal licence to sell alcohol an individual must pass a formal licensing qualification and have a Criminal Records Bureau Certificate.

Over the last few weeks there has been a lot of publicity about the need to make these applications in a timely fashion. The authorities are getting increasingly concerned about the small number of applications submitted to date which are running at 4% and a “high level” government task force has been established to review the position.

From our dealings with applications for conversion and/or a variation, the reasons for delay are clear. The regulations and forms were introduced at a very late stage, there has been no detailed guidance from local authorities on how to deal with the applications – not surprisingly since they are new to the applications themselves - and the information required is extensive and complex.

If you undertake any “licensable activity” you need to deal with your application to convert and/or vary your licences WITHOUT FURTHER DELAY to avoid interruption to your business. Our guide outlining the new regime of the Licensing Act 2003 can be accessed through the following link: