The Licensing Act 2003: Temporary events

There is one particular advantage of the new licensing system to those who work in the off-trade, and that is the possession of a personal licence.

As noted earlier, the same licence applies to everyone, whether they are running a small corner shop or a major entertainment and dining venue. In the past there has been some criticism that the holder of an off-licence was prevented from doing any external catering because of the restrictions imposed on the type of licence. This is no longer the case, and those running off-licensed premises have a new-found ability to cater for outside events.

Under the old legislation, there were three kinds of permission which may be granted:

1. An occasional licence, granted by the magistrates but restricted to on-licence -holders

2. An occasional permission, granted by the licensing justices to a nominated person of an organisation

3. A temporary public entertainment licence, granted by the council.

All three of these, as long as they stay within certain limits, are now covered by a new type of authority, known as a temporary event notice (TEN). The important difference is that this is not a licence or permission – it is a right given to certain people which is removable only by an active objection by the police.

This means that, in the vast majority of cases, there is no need for any hearing or a formal application as such. Those who want to run an event merely notify the council and pay a fee. If nothing happens, the event simply goes ahead as planned.

Current off-licence holders are entitled to issue up to 50 notices a year, as long as no more than 12 are for the same venue. They have exactly the same rights as pub licensees in this respect.

The requirement is for the notice to be received by the council not less than 10 days before the planned event. In practice, many personal licence holders will give a longer period of notice, in order to ensure that the event can go ahead.

The problem is that there are limitations which may prove to be more of a nuisance than the current system. The main one is that no premises can have more than 12 temporary events a year, so that those halls and centres which are currently well-used by a variety of licensees for one-off events may well prove to be “off-limits” in the -latter half of the year if the maximum is breached.

The council licensing department will add up the events which have taken place and, when the 13th application comes in, it will issue a “counter-notice” to the licensee, which effectively bans the event. It is immaterial what type of occasion has gone before – the 13th event is not allowed and the licensee in question must lose out.

The only answer in such circumstances is for the hall to become licensed so that any holder of a personal licence may use it for events, as long as there is a designated premises supervisor.

For many off-licensees, however, the temporary event notice will be useful if they wish to expand their business and cater for small-scale gatherings of less than 500 people taking place over a period of less than 96 hours. While 50 such events are allowed for each holder of a personal licence, “amateurs” can only have up to five.

All that is required is a simple notification to the licensing office of the local council and the payment of a fee. If the police do not object within a very short period, then the event can go ahead without any further action. An actual “licence” is not required.

Unlike an occasional licence, two notices cannot be run consecutively. There must be an interval of at least 24 hours between two TENs and a maximum of 15 days during the year at any one venue. It is best to enquire in advance from the licensing office to ensure that your event can go ahead at the time and the place you require.

The police are entitled to issue an objection notice if they think that the event is likely to undermine the crime prevention objective, but such action would be very unusual. The local authority is required under the Act to acknowledge your notice within a day, or two days if the notice is given on a non-working day.

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