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    Business and Planning Bill 2020

    Summary

    Solicitor, Jenny Chan looks at what the Business and Planning Bill 2020 will bring to the table for Premises Licence holders

    Purpose of the Bill

    Following the lockdown imposed as a result of Covid-19, the Hospitality industry are amongst those significantly affected with many having no choice but to close their doors indefinitely.

    In recognition that the period of lockdown has reduced the public confidence in venturing out and subsequently reduced spending, the Government are taking active steps to try and boost the economy by assisting restaurants, cafes and drinking establishments to get through this unprecedented economic crisis.

    The Bill, which is expected to pass through Parliament imminently, provides for temporary changes to planning procedures i.e. ‘Pavement Licences’ and Alcohol Licensing. The Bill seeks to relax certain requirements which will enable restaurants, pubs and bars to set up tables and chair outdoors to enable outdoor dining as well as sell and serve alcohol for consumption off the premises. The hope is that the change will go some way in accommodating the social distancing guidelines that the restaurants, cafes and drinking establishment currently need to comply with.

    What Modifications are proposed for Premises Licence Holders

    Many Premises Licences specifically exclude off-sales which essentially means that alcohol is not permitted to be sold for consumption off the premises. 

    The Business and Planning Bill 2020, once in force, automatically modifies a Premises Licence to authorise off-sales until 30 September 2021. No application is required to be made by the Premises Licence holder to instigate this change. 

    Will every Premises Licence Holder benefit from the Modification?

    Premises Licence holders will still need to identify whether they can actually benefit from this modification since the Bill specifically states:

    Modification of premises licences to authorise off-sales for limited period 172F Authorisation of off-sales for limited period (1) Subsection (2) applies to a premises licence if-

    (a) the licence has effect, or is capable of having effect, on the day on which this section comes into force (“day X”),
    (b) immediately before day X, it is an on-sales only licence, and
    (c) no disqualifying event has occurred in relation to the licence in the period of three years ending with day X.

    Disqualifying Event

    In the three years preceding the date in which the bill actually comes into force, the Premises Licence will not be able to benefit from the modification if:

    (a) the relevant licensing authority refused to grant a premises licence in respect of the licensed premises authorising off-sales,
    (b) the relevant licensing authority refused to vary the premises licence so as to authorise off-sales, or
    (c) the premises licence was varied or modified so as to exclude off sales from the scope of the licence.

    What will the Modification mean in practice to Premises Licence holders?

    Once the bill comes into force, the Modification will allow businesses with Premises Licences, who are eligible under the requirements, to sell alcohol from their premises and not have to restrict customers to consuming it within their premises.

    For example: a customer would be able to purchase alcohol from a pub but consume the drinks elsewhere and if a restaurant is offering take-out food to customers, those customers would also be able to order an alcoholic drink to accompany their food to be delivered at the same time.

    Can Off-Sales be excluded despite the modifications?

    The Licensing Authority will still be alive to the Licensing Objective of Crime and Disorder, Public Nuisance, Public Safety and Protection of Children despite the modifications. The Bill itself provides that any responsible body may apply for an off-Sale review of a Premises Licence if they of the view that any of the Licensing Objective are being impacted. The review may result in a modification of the condition relating to off-sales, an exclusion of off-sales or a suspension of off-sales from the Premise Licence.

    The changes will be very much welcomed by the hospitality industry following the lockdown, with the hope that it will help to build public confidence and encourage a speedy return to the much loved culture of dining and drinking out, especially in the hot summer months. However, with more hustle and bustle and even noisier and busier streets than ever before, there will undoubtedly be a need for compromise between businesses and residents on this path to reviving the economy.

    The Bill is expected to be passed through parliament imminently, but at the time of writing, the content of this article is based on the Bill in its current form. Whether any amendments will be made before the Bill is in force is yet to be seen.

    Should you have any questions regarding the above, or need any related legal advice, please contact Jenny Chan, at jenny.chan@seddons.co.uk, or on 020 7725 8029, or one of the litigation team.

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