Under the 2003 Act there will be just 2 main types of licence. One is to licence the person selling alcohol (and we have very little to say about that because in general, if a person over 18 either already holds a liquor licence or possesses a relevant licensing qualification, they will be given a personal licence unless there is a record of relevant criminal offences). It is called a personal licence.


The other licence is that for the premises where alcohol is sold or where what is called ‘regulated entertainment’ or ‘late night refreshment’ takes place. This is called a premises licence. These are the licences most people will wish to form a view about. For private clubs there are also ‘club premises certificates’. Most of the points made here about premises licences will also apply to them but if you are concerned about particular aspects of a club premises you may need to get specialist advice. Premises licences can be for alcohol sold ‘off’ the premises such as shops and supermarkets or ‘on’ the premises such as in pubs, clubs and restaurants or a combination of the two.


For premises that are being built or converted to become a licensed premises the applicant can apply for a provisional statement so that they have some certainty of getting a licence before making the investment. For one off events not exceeding 96 hours there are temporary event notices.


Local councils acting as ‘local licensing authorities’ from now on handle all licences and the role of the ‘licensing justices’ in the local magistrates court comes to and end following the Second Appointed Day (24th November 2005, when the new premises and personal licences come into effect and the old licences cease to be valid). Although the magistrates courts will still be involved as they will hear all the appeals against the decisions of local licensing authorities.


These local licensing authorities are in effect a special committee or sub committee of councilors on your local council who will decide licensing matters. Under the Act their function in looking at licence applications is to promote the 4 licensing objectives. These are:


Other than licences which just convert to the new system without any change, councils must look at all the variations and new applications that applicants apply for in terms of how they address these four objectives.


Before the licensing authority makes a licensing decision it has to take into account its own local licensing policy (to view your local licensing policy look on your local council’s web site or This local policy will have been drawn up and consulted upon in late 2004 and must be reviewed at least every three years. It will tell you the council’s attitude to licensing matters locally and its policies. If the council has decided that there are any areas of the borough/district that are saturated with licensed premises already then they will have designated these as ‘special policy areas’ which means that the council will have a presumption against granting further licences in that areas unless there are exceptional circumstances. That is fine as far as it goes but it does nothing to help reduce the saturation or to help areas which may be on the verge of becoming saturated. But you can use relevant bits from all the policies and particularly those about special policy areas to bolster your case.


The licensing authority must also take into account the Ministerial Guidance issued by central government but they can depart from it where their reasons are soundly based.


They have also to take account of the views of the responsible authorities (such as the police, fire authority and environmental health) and interested parties (local residents and local businesses and those that represent such residents and businesses). That is where users of this web site are likely to come in.


Where there is a dispute triggered by either of these groups making a representation they must hold a hearing before making a decision. If there is no representation then they must grant the licence in the form applied for.

Licensing Act - 2003