Licensing Act 2003

The act established a single regime for licensing premises which are used for the sale or supply of alcohol, to provide regulated entertainment, or to provide late night refreshment.

The law on alcohol licensing is set out in the Licensing Act 2003 and in regulations.

Under the Licensing Act 2003, local councils (district or unitary) regulate four 'licensable activities':

  • the sale of alcohol
  • the supply of alcohol (ie, in a members' club)
  • the provision of regulated entertainment
  • the provision of late night refreshment (ie, after 11pm)

Licensing authorities must carry out their functions with a view to promoting four statutory licensing objectives:

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

There are three different kind of authorisation under which licensable activities can be provided:

  • premises licence: to use a premises for licensable activities, subject to conditions on the licence
  • club premises certificate: to allow a members' club (working men's club/political club) to engage in qualifying club activities, subject to conditions on the certificate
  • temporary event notices (TENs): enable the user to carry out licensable activities without other authorisation. 

Licensing authorities

Licensing authorities are responsible for administering the act in their areas. This includes issuing licences and other authorisations, and carrying out enforcement activities – working with the police and other responsible authorities.

Licensing authorities must publish a licensing policy statement on their websites setting out how they intend to run and enforce the licensing process in their area.
They must also keep a register of (among other things) all personal licences, premises licences, club premises certificates and temporary event notices. You can inspect the register during office hours at your local council free of charge.

The statutory guidance (issued under section 182 of the act) to licensing authorities provides detailed advice to local councils on the requirements under the act. It is also a useful source of information for the police, other responsible authorities such as environmental health, businesses and anyone else who is interested in the licensing process.

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