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26th June, 2020 by Jamie Childs
The Business and Planning Bill (“Bill”) includes two key provisions for operators of licenced premises: 1) a new standalone mechanism to secure a “pavement licence”; and 2) provisions to allow operators to provide off-sales where their premises licence would not otherwise permit this, for a limited period.
These provisions, which are explored in greater detail below, provide useful tools for operators of licenced premises to use when they are considering their plans for re-opening their businesses from 4 July 2020.
The expectation is that the Bill will proceed quickly through Parliament and its progress may be monitored here.
The Bill allows operators of pubs, cafes and restaurants to apply for a pavement licence for the licence-holder to put removable furniture on a part of the highway adjacent to the premises in connection with the sale or service of food or drink supplied from the premises.
The Government envisage these provisions being used to provide additional space for premises to operate safely, alongside the use of car parks, terraces and any areas already permitted to be used through licences for existing seating (sometimes known as Tables and Chairs licences).
This should be viewed alongside recent temporary changes to permitted development rights which, for planning purposes, allow pubs, cafes and restaurants to provide takeaway food until 23 March 2021, subject to notifying the local planning authority.
The Bill requires applications for pavement licences to include certain prescribed information but caps application fees to £100.
A short 7 day consultation period and publication of the application is also required. Applications will be deemed to be granted if they are not determined within 7 days beginning with the first day after the public consultation period.
Pavement licences may be granted for a limited period (not less than 3 months) or with no such limit, in which case they will automatically expire at the end of 30 September 2021.
A local authority may also grant a pavement licence subject to conditions that it considers reasonable but in any event such licences will be deemed to be subject to a “no-obstruction condition”.
Draft guidance on pavement licences has also been published by the Government alongside the Bill.
The Bill proposes to amend the Licensing Act 2003 by allowing premises licences which only permit the on-sale of alcohol to be treated as if they were varied to allow off-sales from the day the Bill becomes law to 30 September 2021 (or earlier in certain circumstances).
This will apply during the time that the premises is already open for the purposes of selling alcohol for consumption on the premises so will not automatically extend licensable hours. A separate application would be needed to vary licensable hours if extended hours were desired.
However, this will not apply to premises licences affected by a “disqualifying event” in the three years before the Bill becomes law. Such disqualifying events are a refusal to grant or vary licence authorising off-sales on the premises or the premises licence was varied or modified to exclude off-sales from the scope of the licence.
The Bill also proposes to vary conditions on premises licences which do already allow on or off-sales but are subject to conditions relating to the time when such off-sales may be made, restricting off-sales in open containers or preventing sales for delivery to allow such activities for as long as the licence authorises off-sales (again, to 30 September 2021 (or earlier in certain circumstances)).
Helpfully, no applications or fees will be required to benefit from these provisions.
However, there are new provisions which would allow for an off-sales review.
Alongside these new measures, operators of licenced premises should also be considering how they may make arrangements to reopen their businesses safely in accordance with Government guidance.
Details of the Government support available for businesses may be found here.
If you wish to discuss the implications of the COVID-19 virus and the Government’s response to it on the industry please contact one of our specialist Leisure & Tourism sector team.
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