Alcohol licensing

Businesses, organisations and individuals who want to sell or supply alcohol in England and Wales must have a licence or other authorisation from a licensing authority – usually a local council. The law and policy governing this area is overseen by the Home Office.

Who needs a licence

Any business, organisation or individual planning to sell or supply alcohol on a permanent basis will need a licence in order to do so:

  • any business or other organisation that sells or supplies alcohol on a permanent basis needs a premises licence
  • anyone who plans to sell or supply alcohol or authorise the sale or supply of alcohol must have a personal licence
  • qualifying 'members' clubs (such as the Royal British Legion, working men’s clubs and rugby clubs) need a club premises certificate if they plan to sell or supply alcohol

Anyone who plans to sell or supply alcohol on a temporary basis, must submit a temporary event notice.

How much does a licence cost?

The licence fee is based on the non-domestic rateable value (NDRV) of the premises. You can check your rateable value at the Valuation Office Agency website. Premises that do not have a rateable value are allocated to Band A. You have to pay an additional fee for large scale events involving more than 5000 people or, in certain cases, where premises exclusively or primarily sell alcohol.

As well as the application fee, you will also need to pay an annual fee to the council to cover ongoping costs of monitoring adn enforcement. For example, if the council and police need to visit your establishment at the same time.

Find out how much you have to pay.

How do you apply for a licence?

To apply for a licence, you will need to complete an application form and send it to your local council, along with the fee. You may also need to send copies of your form (depending on the type of application you are making) to the police and other 'responsible authorities'. You can apply online via Businesslink if your council accepts electronic applications. Otherwise, you can apply by post.

Responsible authorities

  • police
  • local fire and rescue
  • local enforcement agency for the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974
  • environmental health authority
  • planning authority
  • body responsible for the protection of children from harm
  • local trading standards
  • any other licensing authority in whose area part of the premises is situated

You can find online application forms for all licences, and advice on how to apply on the Business Link website.  Alternatively you can download applications forms in Word format on this website.

You should also contact your local council for advice on the application process. 

Licensing Act 2003

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

Under the act, all licensing authorities have four objectives, which ensure that activities are carried out in the public interest: 

  • preventing crime and disorder 
  • protecting public safety 
  • preventing public nuisances 
  • protecting children from harm

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.

Share |