COVID-19 - advice for alcohol licensing
The COVID-19 pandemic presents unprecedented challenges with disruption to society likely to last for some time. Pro-active resilience and creativity now will aid in getting back to normal once the pandemic has passed. It is not ‘business as usual’ for the licensed trade but the licensing team remains operational with reduced staff to assist customers in navigating the current period as effectively as possible.
This page includes information for premises licensed under the Licensing Act 2003. Our Licensing Team are maintaining services in balance of supporting local businesses whilst promoting the licensing objectives.
For business support and guidance please visit our COVID-19 guidance for business page.
Guidance-on-staying-at-home-and-away-from-others sets out social distancing measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus to save lives and protect the NHS.
Under the The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions)(England) Regulations 2020 many licensed premises have been forced to close. Guidance has been produced for Businesses-and-premises-to-close during the ‘emergency period’.
These include pubs, clubs and restaurants selling food or drink for consumption on the premises (which includes any seating areas adjacent to the premises). Food and drink sold by a hotel or other accommodation as part of room service does not constitute consumption on the premises.
Shops, supermarkets, take-away food and drink restaurants, delivery services and off-licences remain open for business and provide a vital role in supplying households with their sustenance. Businesses are able to continue to sell alcohol for consumption off the premises where authorised by the premises licence. Premises selling food on a delivery and takeaway basis cannot allow consumption on their premises. Shops, supermarkets, off licences and businesses must ensure customers collecting goods and takeaways abide by the social distance rules and not allow consumption of food or drink on the premises.
Premises who wish to sell alcohol as part of a takeaway service or for consumption off the premises must ensure that the Licence covers off sales as part of the licensable activity and must ensure robust age verification measures are put in place to prevent alcohol being provided to minors.
On this page
Licensing Act 2003 fees are set centrally. Councils don’t have flexibility and the Act does not provide any mechanism to refund licence fees.
Premises licences are subject to an annual fee which is due on the anniversary of the grant of the licence. Invoices shall be sent when this is due.
Generally when annual fees become due but are not paid, the premises licence is suspended. This remains the default position.
Premises may be closed due to the lockdown when the annual fee becomes due. If no licensable activities are being conducted you may decide not to pay the annual fee and allow your licence to be suspended. Suspended premises licences can be re-instated upon receipt of the annual fee payment. Premises can be open with the licence suspended if no licensable activity is taking place i.e. restaurant selling food for takeaway or deliveries but no alcohol.
If you are entitled to remain open but are struggling to pay the annual fee due to the pandemic, please contact the licensing team to discuss.
Licensing applications, procedures, administrative issues and hearings
Officers are working to process licence applications within the prescribed period and deal with customer enquiries as promptly as possible. Due to reduced staffing, you may need to wait slightly longer than normal for a response, if this is the case, please bear with us.
Licensing Act applications, hearings and requests are being addressed on a priority basis. We are happy to accept applications online, by email and/or by post, although applications served by mailing services may be delayed in the current climate.
Consideration shall be given to business critical matters which may involve deferring non urgent matters. Cases will be considered on their own merits in discussion with applicants.
Dealing with non-compliance
If you are operational but struggling with specific conditions due to the pandemic, please contact us and make us aware you may be breaching conditions. We will consider each case on its own merits and weigh up the impact of potential breaches on the licensing objectives to establish if there is a need for flexibility. If it is determined that non-compliance with a licence condition cannot be temporarily disregarded, licence holders would be required to rectify any breaches as soon as reasonably practicable and with communications be maintained with your designated officer.
New emergency premises closure requirements brought in by the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Business Closure) (England) Regulations 2020 (‘the Business Closure Regulations’) gives councils powers to close certain businesses and other venues that involve social contact without essential grounds for this to take place. These powers are also held by the Police and other Local Authority officers.
Licensed premises found to be breaching the legislative framework in place to prevent coronavirus may face formal action with consideration towards a premises licence review application with a view to revoking the licence.