Licensing – West End of London (Bloomsbury, Covent Garden , Fitzrovia & Soho)

Backdated from previous BA website

Bloomsbury Association, Covent Garden Community Association, Fitzrovia Neighbourhood Association and the Soho Society are collaborating to better understand the Licensing Act so that we have a clear understanding of the implications of that Act and how the Review process works and how breaches of licenses are enforced.

We have had 2 high level meetings with the Licensing officers for both Westminster City Council and Camden Council and both Councils gave us a detailed explaination of their licensing policy and operations.  We in turn asked many questions and the Councils responded with detailed answers.  We are now examining the finer points of the Act such as below contributed by the Soho Society. They say:

The Act is very clear: a licensee can only be prosecuted for a breach of a condition that is on the face of the licence or in statute. This is a criminal process with a criminal standard of proof.  He cannot be prosecuted for anything else.  A licensee’s obligation is to comply with the terms and conditions of the licence. He can do anything else quite lawfully whether or not it is in breach of the operating plan/application form. In other words it is not a breach of the law to serve someone a drink 4.00am in a pub with a terminal hour if 2.00am if the terminal hour restriction is not a condition on the face of the licence but only included in its operating plan.

A licence can however be reviewed on any ground relating to the licensing objectives, whether or not there is a condition to that effect. This is an administrative process rather than a criminal one, where the Guidance and licensing policy come into play.

Embedded conditions are statutory conditions under the old act which are not statutory under the new act. Under the transitional arrangements these are meant to be conditions transferred on to the face of the licence like other conditions in the old justices licences.  They could have been varied like other conditions. To the extent that they have not been transferred then they are unenforceable but of course the licence can still be reviewed to have them restored.

The problem comes in things like drinking up times – under the old act a pub had a terminal hour of 11.00pm and 30 minutes drinking up time so everyone had to be off the premises by 11.30pm. Under the new act there is no statutory drinking up time so unless one is specified in the licence, nothing would stop a licensee with an 11.00pm terminal hour from selling 10 pints of beer to each customer at 10.55pm and allowing them to drink it until 3.00am for example. If this drinking up time had been transferred as an embedded condition then it would be a criminal offence to allow people to drink in the pub past 11.30pm. If there is no condition then you would have to show by evidence that there is a need for a drinking up time to promote the licensing objectives in that particular case.

Any comments of this greatfully received. Please send to licensing@bloomsburyassociation.org.uk

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