Businesses, organisations and individuals who want to sell or supply alcohol in England and Wales must have a licence or other authorisation from a licensing authority - usually a local council. The law and policy governing this area is overseen by the Home Office.
Applying for a licence
The types of businesses and organisations that need alcohol licences might include:
- pubs and bars
- late-opening cafes
- village and community halls
The types of licences required are defined as follows:
- any business or other organisation that sells or supplies alcohol on a permanent basis needs to apply for a premises licence
- anyone who plans to sell or supply alcohol or authorise the sale or supply of alcohol must apply for a personal licence
- qualifying members’ clubs (such as the Royal British Legion, working men’s clubs and rugby clubs) need to apply for a club premises certificate if they plan to sell or supply alcohol
Anyone who plans to sell or supply alcohol on a temporary basis must submit a temporary event notice.
How to apply for an alcohol licence
To apply for a licence, you will need to complete an application form and send it to your local council, along with the fee. You may also need to send copies of your form (depending on the type of application you are making) to the police and other ‘responsible authorities’. You can apply online if your council accepts electronic applications. Otherwise, you can apply by post:
Forms are also available for:
You should also contact your local council for advice on the application process.
- local fire and rescue
- primary care trust (PCT) or local health board (LHB)
- the relevant licensing authority
- local enforcement agency for the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974
- environmental health authority
- planning authority
- body responsible for the protection of children from harm
- local trading standards
- any other licensing authority in whose area part of the premises is situated
Fees under the Licensing Act 2003
Licence fees are prescribed in regulations (the Licensing Act 2003 (Fees) Regulations 2005). The fees paid in respect of applications for new premises licences and club premises certificates; applications for full variations to premises licences and club premises certificates; and annual fees in respect of premises licences and club premises certificates vary dependent on the national non-domestic rateable value (NNDR) “band” of the premises. You can check your rateable value at the Valuation Office Agency website.
Premises that are exempt from non-domestic rating are allocated to Band A. Premises that do not have a NNDR because they under construction are allocated to Band C.
An “additional fee” may be payable in respect of large scale events, where 5,000 or more people are due to attend at a venue that is not purpose-built.
Determining a licence application
Where an application is properly made and no responsible authority or other person makes representations, the licensing authority must grant the application, subject only to conditions which are consistent with the operating schedule and relevant mandatory conditions in the act. This should be undertaken as a simple administrative process by the licensing authority’s officials.
If representations are made by a responsible authority or other person, it is for the licensing authority to decide whether those representations are relevant to the licensing objectives and not frivolous or vexatious. If the licensing authority decides that any representations are relevant, then it must hold a hearing to consider them.
At a hearing, the licensing authority may:
- grant the application subject to modifying conditions that are consistent with the operating schedule in a way it considers appropriate for the promotion of the licensing objectives
- reject one or more requested licensable activities
- reject the application
- refuse to specify a person as a designated premises supervisor
All decisions of the licensing authority, and any conditions imposed, must be appropriate for the promotion of the licensing objectives. If you disagree with the council’s decision, you have a right of appeal to the magistrate’s court.
You are not required to have a personal licence to be employed in a pub or other business that sells alcohol. Premises licensed to sell alcohol must have a designated premises supervisor, who holds a personal licence. The one exception is a community premises that has successfully applied to waive the DPS requirement under section 41D of the act. Anyone who does not hold a personal licence must be authorised to sell alcohol by a personal licence holder. There is no such requirement for the supply of alcohol in a members’ club.
Personal licences allow you to sell alcohol on behalf of any business that has a premises licence or a club premises certificate. The relationship is similar to the way that a driving licence permits the driving of any car.
About the licence
The personal licence is designed to ensure that anybody running or managing a business that sells or supplies alcohol will do so in a professional fashion. Once you receive your personal licence, you can act as the designated premises supervisor for any business that sells or supplies alcohol.
Who can apply
In order to apply, you must be aged 18 years or over, and (in almost all cases) hold a licensing qualification - for example, a BII Level II examination certificate or a similar accredited qualification such as the EDI NCPLH level 2 qualification.
If you are applying for a personal licence, you must obtain an accredited qualification first. The aim of the qualification is to ensure that licence holders are aware of licensing law and the wider social responsibilities involved in the sale of alcohol. Personal licence qualification providers are accredited by the Home Secretary.
Download the full list of accredited personal licence qualification providers.
Your local council will want to know of any relevant criminal convictions, and these may impact on whether or not you’re found to be suitable as a licensee. You will also need to provide a basic criminal conviction disclosure form.
Changing a licence or club certificate
If you wish to change any aspect of your licence or club certificate once it has been granted, you will need to apply to your local council for either a full or a minor variation.
The full variation process is very similar to the application process for a new premises licence and the fee is the same. You should use this process if you want to make a substantial change to your licence, for example, increasing the hours when you sell alcohol.
If you want to make a small, low-risk change to your premises licence, you may be able to use the minor variation process. This is cheaper and quicker than the full variation application.
Small changes could include:
- removing a licensable activity
- reducing the hours you sell alcohol
- making small changes to the layout of your premises
If you apply for a minor variation and your application is rejected, you will not be able to appeal. However, you can reapply using the full variation process.
Contact your local council for advice on which process is more suitable for the change you want to make.
Community involvement in licensing
Any person or business may make representations on premises licence applications or variations, premises licence reviews, representations in relation to club premises certificates and reviews of club premises certificates.
Any person can make representations or comments to the council about applications for new licences, variations or reviews.
Comments may be positive or negative, but will only be considered relevant by the council if they relate clearly to the licensing objectives. Councils will also reject comments considered to be frivolous (not serious or time-wasting) or if they relate to personal disputes between businesses.
Requesting a review of a licence
You can also call for an existing licence to be reviewed by the council if you have concerns relating to the licensing objectives.
If the council considers your reasons for making representations or calling for a review are relevant, it will arrange a hearing to consider the evidence. You - or someone representing you - will be invited to the hearing to explain your concerns.
Representations and requests for the review of a licence must be made in writing. Forms can be obtained from your local council.
If you disagree with the council’s decision following a hearing, you have the right to appeal to the magistrates’ court. Your council will be able to provide further details.
All businesses and organisations that undertake licensable activities on a permanent basis must have a premises licence from their local authority.
Sale or supply of alcohol
The sale by retail of alcohol and the supply of alcohol by or on behalf of a club are both licensable activities.
Regulated entertainment is broadly defined as any entertainment that takes place in the presence of an audience (whether members of the public or a club), or otherwise for profit, and the premises have the purpose of providing the entertaining concerned. It may include:
- a performance of a play
- an exhibition of a film
- an indoor sporting event
- a boxing or wrestling entertainment
- a performance of live music
- playing of recorded music
- a performance of dance
For further information, see Schedule 1 to the Licensing Act 2003.
Late night refreshment
Late night refreshment is the sale of hot food or drink to the public to consume off or on the premises) between 11pm and 5am. For further information, see Schedule 2 to the Licensing Act 2003.
Club premises certificates
Members’ clubs can operate under club premises certificates instead of premises licences.
This means, for example, that they are not required to have a designated premises supervisor, and sales of alcohol do not need to be authorised by a personal licence holder.
To be classified as a club for the purpose of this certificate, a group must meet several conditions.
- legitimacy - each applicant must be a real club with at least 25 members
- a membership process that takes at least two days between application and acceptance
- alcohol must not be supplied on the premises other than by the club
- alcohol must be purchased by a committee made up of members all of whom are at least 18 years old
- alcohol for the club must be purchased legally
Other legal restrictions for clubs operating under a club premises certificate are in the Licensing Act 2003.
Designated premises supervisors
A designated premises supervisor (DPS) is the person who has day-to-day responsibility for the running of the business.
All businesses and organisations selling or supplying alcohol, except members clubs and certain community premises must have a designated premises supervisor.
Whoever holds this role must be named in the operating schedule, which you will need to complete as part of the application process, when you apply for a premises licence.
What the DPS does
The person chosen to be designated premises supervisor (DPS) will act as primary contact for local government and the police. They must understand the social issues and potential problems associated with the sale of alcohol, and also have a good understanding of the business itself.
While they need not be on site at all times, they are expected to be involved enough with the business to be able to act as its representative, and they must be contactable at all times.
If the police or local government have any questions or concerns about the business, they will expect to be able to reach the designated supervisor.
Each business may have only one supervisor selected for this role, but the same person may act as the designated supervisor at more than one business.
The Licensing Act requires the supervisor - and all personal licence holders - to take responsibility for the sale and supply of alcohol.
This is because of the impact alcohol has on the wider community, on crime and disorder, and antisocial behaviour.
Because of these issues, selling alcohol carries greater responsibility than licensing regulated entertainment and late night sales of food and non-alcoholic drinks.
Becoming a DPS
A designated premises supervisor must have a personal licence and must be nominated by the premises license holder for the role of designated supervisor.
If you run or are involved in a community, church or village hall that wishes to sell alcohol or already sells it, you can apply for the sale of alcohol to be made the responsibility of a management committee instead of a premises supervisor. Or you can also apply to replace the designated premises supervisor, if you already have one, with the management committee
If you’re organising a temporary event and want to serve or sell alcohol, provide late night refreshment, or put on regulated entertainment, you’ll need to complete a temporary event notice (TEN).
A TEN is a form that you provide to the local council, the police and environmental health, letting them know about the planned event.
There are 2 types of TENs:
- a standard TEN, which is given no later than 10 working days before the event to which it relates
- a late TEN, which is given not before 9 and not later than 5 working days before the event.
What qualifies for a TEN?
For the purpose of a TEN, a temporary event is a relatively small-scale event attracting fewer than 500 people.
The event must last no more than 168 hours and can be held either outdoors or indoors.
Any premises can only be used for 12 temporary events per year, up to a total maximum of 21 days.
You must be over 18 in order to hold a temporary event.
If you have a personal licence, you can give 50 TENs (made up of standard and late TENs) a year; if you don’t have a personal licence you can only give 5 (made up of standard and late TENs).
If you have a personal licence, you can give 10 late TENs a year; if you don’t have a personal licence you can only give 2 late TENs.
There must be at least 24 hours between temporary events organised by the same person or an associate in relation to the same premises.
Once the police or environmental health receive your TEN, they have 3 working days to make any objections to it on the grounds of any of the four licensing objectives: prevention of crime and disorder, prevention of public nuisance, public safety, protection of children from harm.
If they object, the council will organise a hearing to consider the evidence and may decide that your event cannot proceed. If there is an objection to a late TEN the event will not be allowed to proceed. Otherwise the event can go ahead as planned.
Download a temporary event notice form.
Mandatory licensing conditions
Mandatory licensing conditions introduced by the Licensing Act 2003 (Mandatory Licensing Conditions) Order 2010
The Licensing Act 2003 (Mandatory Licensing Conditions) Order 2010 introduced conditions that apply to all relevant premises in England and Wales. They apply to all licensed premises and those with a club premises certificate in England and Wales. In particular, if your premises sells or supplies alcohol, you must ensure that an age verification policy applies at the premises. The other conditions apply in respect of premises licensed for the sale or supply of alcohol on the premises, and are:
- a ban on irresponsible promotions
- a ban on dispensing alcohol directly into customers’ mouths
- mandatory provision of free tap water
- the mandatory provision of smaller measures (see below for further details)
Age verification policy
If your premises (your pub, bar or club, for example) sells or supplies alcohol, you must hold an age verification policy.
As a minimum, the premises must have a policy that requires people who appear to be under the age of 18 to be asked, before being served alcohol, to produce identification showing their:
- date of birth
- a holographic mark
Examples of acceptable ID include:
- photo card driving licences
- passports or proof of age cards bearing the PASS hologram
- other forms of ID which meet the criteria laid out above are also acceptable
Staff who work in these venues must be made aware of the existence and content of the age verification policy.
If you’re responsible for serving alcohol, you now must make sure that the following drinks (if sold in your premises), are available in the following measures:
- beer or cider - half pint
- gin, rum, vodka or whisky - 25ml or 35ml
- still wine in a glass - 125ml
You must also make sure your customers are aware of the availability of these measures.
Statutory guidance and the legislative reform order
Statutory guidance under section 182 of the Licensing Act 2003 has been amended to reflect these conditions.
Changes to alcohol licensing forms
On 31 October 2012, 2 new forms were published relating to the provisions of early morning restriction orders.
Six forms and one notice were updated on 1 October 2012:
- club premises application
- club premises variation
- minor variation application
- premises licence application
- provisional statement application
- licence variation application
- temporary event notice
Alcohol and late night refreshment licensing statistics have also been released.