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The Licensing Act is underpinned by four licensing objectives which are the basis upon which all applications will be considered as well as the grounds upon which any challenges or objections are made. These are:

  • the prevention of crime and disorder
  • public safety
  • the prevention of public nuisance
  • the protection of children from harm

The Act means that a person can attain a personal licence which will allow them to sell alcohol from any licensed premises, and the premises will be licensed separately according to set criteria.

Businesses can apply for anything up to 24 hour 7 days a week licences. The local authority will only have the power to refuse or change the licensing hours you apply for if they receive an objection.
Presumption to Grant Applications – All applications that comply with the requirements and do not receive an objection within an appointed timescale will be granted.

Objections can be raised against a licence at any time and these have to be considered by the local authority. Firstly by the licensing officers to ensure the objection is in line with the objectives and is not repetitive, vexatious or frivolous and then by a hearing for Licensing Committee.

Late Night Refreshments

The Licensing Act 2003 does not just affect alcohol, there are other licensable activities that will be run by this system, these include public entertainment and late night refreshment.

Cafes and takeaway outlets serving hot food or drink between the hours of 11pm and 5am require late night refreshment licences but the law will also require a minority of stores that provide hot food and drink late at night.

Here are some examples:

  • You DO need a late night refreshment licence if you sell over the counter hot food, such as food to go (pasties and pies) or takeaway (burgers, fries) between 11pm and 5am
  • You DO need a late night refreshment licence if you sell hot drinks over the counter
  • You DO NOT need a late night refreshment licence to sell grocery or non-hot food late at night
  • You DO NOT need a late night refreshment licence if you have a vending machine that sells hot food and drink, but is operated by the customer inserting money in the machine rather than paying you over the counter

Personal Licences

A personal licence to sell alcohol works like a driving licence once you pass the test you can use it in any licensed premises. It is renewed every 10 years. However, if you commit an offence which jeopardises that licence you will have it revoked. All licensed premises must have one personal licence holder and in every case a premises will have one designated premises supervisor who holds a personal licence.

There are three parts to the application:

(a) Applicants must hold a BII Level 2 qualification.

Topics outlined in the syllabus include:

  • licensing authorities
  • personal licences
  • alcohol
  • unauthorised licensable activities
  • Police powers
  • duties of the personal licence holder
  • premises licenses
  • operating schedules
  • permitted temporary activities
  • disorderly conduct on licensed premises
  • protection of children
  • rights of entry

(b) Applicants must undergo a police check

The law requires that the local authority granting the personal licence is satisfied that you have not committed any offences that would prevent you from holding a licence. Therefore the local authority will require a basic level Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) check. This check can be carried out by you local authority another registered company such as your employer or you may be able to obtain one yourself.

(c) Personal Licence Fee

The fee for a personal licence application is £37, with the same fee on each renewal, at ten yearly intervals.

Role of the Licence Holder

Having received a licence to sell alcohol you will become integral to the stores operation, you will be entrusted with taking responsibility for sales of alcohol made under your authority. If you are the sole personal licence holder your responsibility will extend to all alcohol sales made from the store in which you work, if there is more than one licence holder you can share the responsibility with others. However, it is important to note that there will always be one personal licence holder in overall charge of alcohol sales on the premises, the designated premises supervisor.

Authorising the Sale of Alcohol 

As a personal licence holder you DO NOT have to be present at, or on the premises during, the sale of alcohol. A personal licence holder can give authority to others to sell alcohol, in their absence, however you cannot escape responsibility for any infringements of the premises licence or the law if occurs in your absence. It is imperative that staff employed in the sale of alcohol are adequately trained to ensure that your staff know the law and what is required of them. If staff employed under your responsibility break the licensing law, for example selling to underage customers, your personal licence could be at stake.

Who should hold a Personal Licence? 

Every store has to have one personal licence holder responsible for the sale of alcohol. If there is only one individual then they will have to be the designated premises supervisor. However it is possible for more than one personal licence holder to work at a store. For example if a store has a number of assistant managers it is worth considering the value of training them through the personal licence qualification. This will allow for a sharing of responsibility for alcohol sales. It will also reflect well on any applications for a licence or in the event of a review. However, beyond the designated premises supervisor you are under no obligation to employ other personal licence holders.


If you have a personal licence your licence is at risk if you commit an offence which is relevant to that licence, whether that be in your work capacity or not. Therefore in the event of a conviction you are under a duty to inform your licence issuer of that offence.

Police Powers to Close Licensed Premises for up to 24 hours

The Police have the power to order the closure of premises selling alcohol to prevent or control major civil disturbances when a potential disturbance is possible. The Police have two powers under the Act

  1. The Police can apply in advance to the Magistrates for a closure order, this would require all licensed premises in an area to shut down for a period up to 24 hours. This is designed as a way to prevent disturbances before a particular event – football match, demonstration and festivity.
  2. The Police can invoke an immediate closure order, on the premises where disturbances are taking place on or near to the premises. This can be for up to 24 hours and such a procedure is considered retrospectively by the Magistrate. This is designed to handle localised and spontaneous disorder in an area.

A police closure order applies to the whole store and is not just the sale of alcohol.

In the event of a pre-planned closure (football crowds, demonstrators etc) you will receive written notification of the plans, this will set out when the closure applies. It will also set out what the penalties are for not complying with the order. The Order is made under the authority of the local magistrate following representation from a senior local police officer (superintendent or above). In the event of an immediate problem a police officer can issue a closure order on the premises. This is done under the authority of a senior officer.

Working with the Police

Closure powers are seen as a way of protecting local areas to prevent or control civil disturbance. In these exceptional cases your store and your staff could be victims of large unruly crowds, suffering theft, vandalism and intimidation. You may choose to close your premises without Police instruction if you expect a disturbance. In the event of any such problems you should, where possible, work with the Police to minimise disruption to your business.

If the Police feel that your premises, or those responsible for the premises, were responsible for the disorder that took place on it, then they will most likely ask for a review of your licence. You should co-operate fully and quickly with Police in this situation.

Establishing a good working relationship with local police is a key way to ensure that you minimise the problems with your alcohol licence generally.