Operators should be prepared on outside area applications

Occasional licence process can vary from area to area

LICENSEES hoping to operate outside areas in the coming weeks should ensure they are “on the ball” with regard to what will be required from their licensing board.

The Scottish Government is due to review its lockdown measures on Thursday (June 18) and will decide on whether to move to the next phase of easing restrictions. It has previously been stated that phase two will include the reopening of outside areas such as beer gardens.

Holyrood is due to publish guidelines on what will be required of venues in order to reopen later this week but Aberdeen City licensing board has stated that, where an outside area is included in a venue’s premises licence, operators in the city “must have written policies and procedures on physical distancing and hygiene measures that can be demonstrated to Police Scotland or licensing standards officers if necessary”.

Where an outdoor area is not currently licensed, operators may wish to apply for an occasional licence in order to be able to sell alcohol from that area.

However, licensing lawyers have cautioned that application processes are likely to differ from board to board and have urged licensees to check with their lawyer and their licensing board to check the best way to proceed with an application.

“I think the best advice to give operators is to ‘stay on the ball’ by either checking directly with their local licensing board for announcements on an expedited application process or keep in touch with their solicitor for that purpose,” said Andrew Hunter, a partner at Harper Macleod.

“I think that occasional licences, with shortened notice periods, will be the likely solution.

“Whilst operators will undoubtedly want to get an application lodged so they are ahead of the curve, I think it is important to wait for processing guidance from the boards, rather than jumping the gun, regardless of how tempting that is to do.”

Hunter advised licensees hoping to secure an occasional licence to prepare a layout plan of the area they want licensed and arranging public liability insurance for the area.

Stephen McGowan, head of licensing (Scotland) at TLT, said occasional licence applications should be as detailed as possible.

“Most licensing boards are trying to process occasional licences as quickly as they can and applicants must help them to do so by making sure applications are detailed,” said McGowan.

“This means providing layout plans showing the area to be used, along with a proper risk assessment of how the external area will be used with regard to social distancing, access to the toilet and so on.”

And Jack Cummins, licensing director at Miller Samuel Hill Brown, said occasional licences will be “the clear route of choice” for operators wishing to open a currently unlicensed outside area.

“There are numerous examples of a really pro-active, supportive approach,” said Cummins.

“For example, the Aberdeen City board has just issued a helpful 11-page guidance document setting out what they’ll be looking for in occasional licence applications.

“Glasgow is reviewing application processes and looking to streamline where possible.

“Readers should check the position locally and waste no time in getting good to go.”