Through all the present uncertainty there appears to be a consensus that once the COVID-19 restrictions are relaxed and the economy gets back up and running we can expect a surge in demand for weddings. Even Prime Minister Boris Johnson has acknowledged this in one of his many briefings.
Legal Expert Anthony Lyons of licensing solicitors Kuits shares this advice.
Is your license in order?
Typically wedding venues will have a premises licence naming a person, being the holder of a personal licence, responsible for sales of alcohol and other licensable activities. Should you already have a licence you will be familiar with the process, which can be stressful and challenging, particularly if objections cause the application to be considered by a licensing panel at a hearing.
The challenges you might face
As restrictions ease and business begins to flood in you may find difficulty in accommodating the demand should your premises licence contain conditions limiting the scope of licensing activities.
Experience suggests that the perfect wedding location may not be regarded as such by residents in the vicinity, whose concerns can lead to the imposition of unreasonable or disproportionate conditions, for example by limiting hours for celebration, the number of days events can take place or onerous noise restrictions.
Pre-pandemic this may have been acceptable. However, if for example your licence contains a condition “limiting events to no more than 15 in a calendar year”, you may well be frustrated at having to decline bookings simply because your licence isn’t fit for purpose.
We understand all too well that when a licence application receives a challenge from neighbours it is often tempting to accept restrictions to the operating conditions, even if the result is a less than optimal licence being granted. Such a licence may have suited at the time but post-pandemic could prove to be a serious impediment to maximising your venue’s business potential.
Frequently we find that venue proprietors have either dealt with the licence application themselves, perhaps accepting well-meaning guidance from a local authority official or possibly engaged an advisor unfamiliar with the licensing process. A person’s natural preference might be to avoid confrontation, but often consultation and negotiation can result in a satisfactory outcome without the necessity of a hearing.
How can I maximise this opportunity?
With the present lockdown negatively impacting across the hospitality sector, at this time we are sensing a willingness by authorities to be more accommodating to applicants. Generally we are noticing commercially savvy operators taking the opportunity to refresh their licensing arrangements.
So now is the moment to either apply for that new licence or carefully check conditions of your existing licence to ensure you are ready to maximise your venue’s potential by avoiding the dilemma of potentially having to turn bookings away.
Points to consider right away in regards to your licences:
- Do you need to apply for new Premises Licences, as well as Wedding Act Licences?
- Will you need to make variations of existing licences to extend licensed areas following development or perhaps the introduction of marquees?
- Might you have to resist objections to a licence application? These might typically be from local residents and/or Environmental Health Officers on the grounds of public nuisance.
- Are you equipped to resist reviews of licences by authorities or neighbours?
- Could you consider variations of your existing licences seeking relaxation of unreasonable or disproportionate conditions?
- Will you need to consult and negotiate with residents and responsible authorities and do you know how to approach them?
As licensing solicitors we regularly provide specialist advice to numerous wedding and event venues across the country and understand the challenges faced. With over 50 years combined experience, the Kuits specialist team have frequently succeeded in assisting wedding and event venues to achieve future-proof licences.
Should there be interest in a confidential no obligation consultation, at first instance please email Anthony Lyons at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 07795 962059.