Don’t run the risk of losing your licence

If a personal licence expires there’s a potential for disaster

If a premises manager’s licence lapses, it could force temporary closure
If a premises manager’s licence lapses, it could force temporary closure

WHEN the refresher training crisis was unfolding back in 2014 the trade was subject to a stream of misinformation that only served to make matters even worse.

A number of training centres promoted courses with advertisements containing horrific mistakes. For example, personal licence holders were told on a number of websites that the training update had to be carried out five years after the date on which the licence was granted.

It’s the sort of fundamental error that may have led some licensees to overshoot the real deadline: training must, of course, be carried out before the expiry of the five-year period. I wondered whether we might see the same reckless approach during the first round of ten-year renewals, especially since the procedure is, to say the least, confusing.

It’s worrying when those teaching licensing law don’t seem to know the basics.

So far, I’ve only detected one offender.

Promoting its “Ten year refresher course” (not the best title, in my view), a college website advises that “every individual serving alcohol” is required to hold a personal licence – and you need that licence “to continue working behind a bar” for the next ten years. It’s worrying when those teaching licensing law appear to have no grasp of some fundamentals.

So, to be clear, you do not need a personal licence to serve alcohol; rather, you must have undergone the mandatory two-hour training course for staff. So, what exactly is the purpose of a personal licence – and what are the consequences when it’s lost? A personal licence authorises the holder “to supervise or authorise the sale of alcohol”.

All licensed premises (save for certain types of clubs) must have a premises manager to allow the sale of alcohol. This is linked to a number of mandatory premises licence conditions, breach of which is a criminal offence.

Alcohol is not to be sold on the premises at any time when:

  • • the premises manager does not hold a personal licence.
  •   there is no premises manager.
  • • the premises manager’s personal licence is suspended.
  •     his or her licensing qualification is not the appropriate one for the premises.
  • The lack of a premises manager can normally be overcome by a stop-gap procedure.

If, for example, the premises manager’s licence is revoked, a replacement manager can be nominated within six weeks by means of a minor variation application, provided the licensing board is informed of the occurrence within seven days.

The revocation of the licence following a training slip-up doesn’t take place instantly; and when thousands of licences were lost during the refresher training meltdown, the seven-day window was available.

But the expiry of a licence is a different matter. It’s an automatic event with instant effect; and, as matters stand, it looks like hundreds of businesses will be without a premises manager on September 1, 2019. That creates a real urgency to take remedial action. There are further, perhaps less obvious, ramifications.

Suppose a caterer uses a personal licence to obtain occasional licences for events such as weddings taking place on unlicensed premises.

If the personal licence is allowed to expire, there’s a potential for disaster. A licence obtained for a booking couldn’t be used and finding a solution in the time available may well be impossible.

Late-night operators could also find themselves wrong-footed if their licence is subject to a condition that a personal licence holder must be present on the premises from 1am onwards. Licensing boards will sometimes apply their own local condition imposing requirements as to the presence of a licence holder in certain circumstances.

It also strikes me that landlords holding premises licences will require to be especially vigilant. Only the premises licence holder can put in place the holding operation I’ve described above; and one can easily imagine a scenario in which a tenant has dropped the ball leaving the property owner in the dark about the loss of the premises manager’s licence.

[box style=”0″]

Jack Cummins is one of Scotland’s leading licensing lawyers. Every month he writes on licensing law and answers readers’ questions in SLTN.

Do you have a legal question for Jack Cummins?

Email or write to Legal Clinic; freepost PEEBLES MEDIA GROUP

Jack Cummins is unable to enter into personal correspondence on readers’ questions. The advice offered in SLTN is published for information only. No responsibility for loss occasioned by persons acting or refraining from action as a result of material contained in SLTN can be accepted by the author or publisher.