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“Off” licence relaxation extended to 31 March 2025

6th September 2023 by “Off” licence relaxation extended to 31 March 2025

Categories: What's New?

Without wishing to go back to a time when many would rather forget, everyone will no doubt have their own specific memories of the first lockdown in 2020. Video calls with family far away, home schooling, and of course just being unable to do simple things like going out for a meal.

It was at this time that many of us began working from home, which worked well in industries that permitted this freedom. However, many sectors are unable to function remotely, in particular hospitality, which has traditionally relied on people physically visiting premises, be they bars, pubs, clubs or restaurants. In the blink of an eye, trade simply vanished!

Save our bars and restaurants!

In an effort to help these struggling businesses, the government introduced emergency legislation under the Business and Planning Act 2020. This provided several helpful relaxations of the law, including:

  • an increased permitted number of Temporary Event Notices (TENs) to be given;
  • a relatively cost effective and streamlined application process for pavement licences; and
  • a general permission for “off” sales of alcohol.

When do the relaxations end?

The legislation was initially intended to end on 30 September 2021, but has been extended each year since. Finally, it was thought that all of the provisions would end on 30 September 2023.

However, the government recently confirmed that pavement licences would be extended for another year (i.e. until 30 September 2024), but said that the increased number of TENs and the “off” licence relaxation would come to an end. It has now been confirmed that, though the TENs relaxation will end this year (apparently few people were taking advantage of this), the “off” licence relaxation will be extended until 31 March 2025.

How does the “off” licence work?

The “off” licence relaxation is particularly useful to many licence holders. It is relatively simple to implement, needing only a notice. However, it can only be used if the premises already has a licence permitting “on” sales of alcohol and only between certain hours.

It is particularly helpful for any business that wishes to provide alcohol along with a meal by delivery, or simply to allow customers to take an unfinished bottle of wine home with them at the end of a meal.

What is a pavement licence?

Pavement licences are essentially permission for premises to put moveable furniture on public highways, generally footpaths.

Prior to the introduction of Pavement Licences, the only option was for a licence holder to apply for a Table and Chairs Permit under the Highways Act 1980. The Pavement Licence has the advantage of lower fees (which are capped at £100, though some local authorities do not charge at all) and a very short consultation period of seven days. This means that, provided no objections are made, a business could make an application for a Pavement Licence and be serving customers outside a mere week later.

A note of caution…

To take advantage of either of the above relaxations, licence holders must check their licences and approved plans carefully. Remember, only premises that already have an “on” licence can use the “off” licence exemption.

Before serving customers outside, a licence holder needs to check if the pavement area is outside the licensed area. This is very likely to be the case and, if so, any alcohol supplied to customers sitting in this outdoor pavement area will technically be considered an “off” sale. Unless the licence already permits “off” sales, the licence holder will need to take advantage the above-mentioned exemption.

If you or your business needs any assistance navigating the licensing regime for a premises (be it shop, bar, pub, club or event), please contact our team today and we will be happy to help.

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