As British drinkers' thirst for a pint at the pub escalates, we ask specialist law firm Licencing Lawyers to provide some clarity on how venues are allowed to sell alcohol under lockdown
With the country blessed by spectacularly warm and sunny weather, and following the government’s partial ease of the lockdown on Sunday 10 May, the amount of consumers buying takeaway alcohol from on-trade venues has risen, and so has the number of pubs and bars offering this service.
There seems to be some confusion however over how venues can sell alcohol under lockdown, and what might constitute a breach of licencing laws.
To help shed some light on the matter we interviewed specialist law firm Licencing Lawyers, which offered some interesting insights into licensing regulations for England and Wales and how these affect the way venues should operate during lockdown.
What are venues currently allowed to do under lockdown?
Premises can sell food and drink for consumption off the premises, [or] drinks only, if their licence permits this.
Are all venues (pubs, bars, and restaurants) allowed to operate in the same way under lockdown?
The lockdown arrangements are the same for both pubs and restaurants. The requirement is to:
- Close any premises, or part of the premises, in which food or drink are sold for consumption on those premises.
- Cease selling food or drink for consumption on its premises.
What license do venues need in order to be able to sell alcohol to take away?
They will need to have a Premises Licence that authorises ‘off-sales’. Most pubs will have this, but many restaurants do not.
If they do not have the ‘off-sales’ ability, they could apply to amend their licence to include it, but this process will take at least four weeks.
Where should people consume such alcohol? Can they consume it on-premise, just outside the venue, or do they need to consume it elsewhere or at home?
Alcohol cannot be consumed on the premises where it was bought. Providing that there are no local restrictions in force, it could however be drunk on the street or adjacent land. The question of whether a pub garden is part of a ‘premises’ is perhaps open for debate, except in Scotland where the matter has been specifically addressed in the legislation there.
In England, if the area is shown on the licence as part of the premises where alcohol may be sold, then it clearly will not be possible to buy and consume within this area. If, however, it is not shown to be part of the ‘premises’, then there is a possibility that it could be used for consumption. The law refers to closing the ‘part of the premises in which food and drink are sold for consumption on those premises’, implying that other areas could remain open.
There will be circumstances – especially in rural locations – where there is land associated with a pub which is not part of its premises. Caution and common sense should however be urged in these circumstances and distancing rules should still be complied with.
Do venues need specific takeaway containers?
There are no specific requirements on the use of containers unless it is on the premises licence – some licences require polycarbonate or shatterproof ‘glasses’ to be used. It is therefore best to check the licence for the premises.
What is the risk for venues that do not comply with the rules?
The council may serve a Prohibition Notice on the person running the premises and the police may call for a review of the licence to see whether it should be revoked or restrictions imposed, as well as serving penalty notices. There have been several instances of licence reviews being applied for already.
Some elements of the legislation are very clear indeed, but others are not and will depend on the individual circumstance. It is always best to seek legal advice if you are uncertain about a particular situation.