Pub licensing


In order for a pub to be able to sell alcohol it must have a licence. Laws state that both the premises from which the alcohol is sold and the person in charge of selling the alcohol must have applied for and have been granted a pub licence.

What is the law on pub licensing?

The Licensing Act 2003, which came into force in November 2005, places the responsibility for pub licensing with Local Authorities - or Licensing Authorities, as they are defined in the Act.

The Licensing Act has four objectives:

  • Prevention of crime and disorder
  • Protection of children from harm
  • Public safety
  • Prevention of public nuisance

Under the Act every premise that sells or supplies alcohol must hold the correct licence, including pubs. Licensing laws dictate that for a pub to legally serve alcohol two licences must be in place:

Personal Licence

Every premise that sells or supplies alcohol, including a pub, must have at least one personal licence holder. A personal licence holder is an individual, usually the landlord of the pub or a senior employee, who has been granted the authority by a Licensing Authority to serve or supply alcohol on premises holding a valid premises licence.

The personal licence holder can also authorise others to serve or supply alcohol on the premises.

Premises Licence

Pubs must hold a premises licence in addition to a person holding a personal licence. The holder of a premises licence can be an individual or a company. The premises licence allows licensable activities, such as the sale or supply of alcohol, to be carried out on the premises.

An application for a premises licence must be accompanied by:

  • An operating schedule
  • A plan of the premises
  • Details of the relevant licensable activities
  • A formal agreement of the person specified as the Designated Premises Supervisor, who must hold a personal licence

The application must be made to the local Licensing Authority. The personal licence holder must sign a formal agreement accompanying the premises licence application which identifies them as the Designated Premises Supervisor. The application must be advertised in a local newspaper and advertised prominently on the pub premises.

Recent developments in licensing laws allow premises to apply for a 24-hour licence to serve alcohol, including pubs. Licensing laws have been expanded like this to try and reduce the level of binge drinking and alcohol-related crime in the UK.

Licensing laws are strict and there are many regulations to comply with. A licensing solicitor will be able to advise you on the specific rules applicable to pubs. Licensing Authorities have the power to visit premises and make sure everything is being properly carried out so it is important to regularly check your compliance with licensing regulations.

For more information on the sale of alcohol, see our information page on obtaining a alcohol license.

Are you unsure which kind of license you need to apply for, for your business? Contact Law works with licensing specialists around the country who specialise in different areas of licensing law. We can make a free recommendation based on the requirements of your case. Please call us on 0800 1777 162 or complete the web-form above.

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