Fee stragglers urged to action

Licensees who fail to pay risk a premises licence review

By Dave Hunter

OPERATORS who failed to pay their premises licence fee by the October 1 deadline have been urged to pay at once or risk having their licence reviewed, and possibly revoked.
The warning comes as a board in Aberdeenshire announced that it will review 55 premises licences in December for late and non-payment of fees.
The reviews – in the Aberdeenshire ‘central’ area – include 28 on-sales licences, 23 off-sales licences and four members’ clubs.
The Aberdeenshire case is not an isolated example.
Fife licensing board has reviewed 13 licences in the past year for late or non-payment, while Highland licensing board reviewed 59 premises licences, revoking four of those licences.
Licensing lawyer Jack Cummins warned against complacency regarding the licence fee.
“Treating the annual licence fee as a bill you’ll pay when you get round to it – perhaps even waiting for the ‘red reminder’ – is absolute folly,” he said.
“On-time payment is a condition of a premises licence, so being even one day late triggers a breach.
“Anyone who missed the October 1 deadline has no time to spare. A late payment may not prevent a review hearing, but it lessens the chances of the licensing board suspending or revoking the licence.”
He added that some boards may accept payments by instalment.
And another lawyer, Janet Hood, said while she felt “dreadfully sorry” for anyone facing a licence review, the fee should not be allowed to “slip through the cracks”.
“They get a letter and then another letter usually,” said Hood.
“They get an invoice and a reminder. So I don’t think there’s a lot of excuse on this.
“I know it’s difficult, but this is their livelihood. They could set up a direct debit, or whatever, to make sure they are paying on time.”
A spokeswoman for Aberdeenshire central licensing board said: “A letter was sent to all premises at the end of August informing them that if they had not paid by the 1st October then they would be brought to the board for a review of their licence.
“It is a mandatory condition of all premises licences that they have to pay their fee by the 1st October and if they paid on or after that date then the board are entitled to review.”
SLTA chief executive Paul Waterson said he hoped boards would be “sympathetic that there’s a bit of ignorance involved in this” but added that any licensees who still hadn’t paid their fee by the time of a board hearing had “no excuse”.