You are the Judge – licensing in a pub


Licensing is an interesting area of the law. It's not just about how to go about getting a licence, but also what you do with it and how it is handled. Pubs, the vital organs of the UK, are classic examples, and licensing conflicts often occur. How would you handle this situation?

Pubs and licensing laws

The scenario

Suzanna is the landlord and licensee of the Dock and Dug pub. It is a small establishment in a residential neighbourhood.

Although it is popular with most of the locals, some have recently complained about noise, especially late at night. Worried about her license, Suzanna has asked her patrons to refrain from drinking outside after 10pm.

Recently, a group of young lawyers has adopted the pub as their regular haunt and frequently disappear outside to smoke, taking their drinks with them and sitting on a public bench, 30 yards from the door. They continue to do this, even after 10pm.

When Suzanna asked them to stop, they pointed out that she has an off-license, which is true, and that there is nothing preventing them purchasing drinks and consuming them wherever they like.

Suzanna felt she could not argue with this logic and has continued to allow the lawyers to drink outside. A complaint has now been made against her to the local authority, requesting her license be reviewed.

This is a fairly common occurrence across the country. What is a fair decision in this case?

The answer

The lawyers’ argument is ingenious - but ultimately disingenuous nonsense.

Licenses are granted based on their impact on the local community, whether or not alcohol is consumed on the premises. Suzanna is responsible for the actions of her patrons and could, for example, have refused to serve the lawyers again if they continued drinking outside. She could even have refused them re-entry to the pub.

So, technically, Suzanna should lose her licence.

However, it would be very harsh to remove her license completely based on these incidents. The off-license could be suspended for three months to remove the excuse and the community asked to keep the situation under review thereafter. Suzanna should speak to the lawyers too, and their response will determine where they continue to drink.

The moral here for pub landlords is to always be on top of the situation! Don't let others decide your fate, and know the licensing laws.

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