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Licensing Board Policy Consultations 2022/2023

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The Licensing (Scotland) Act 2005 sets out that Licensing Boards are required to publish their licensing policy every five years and the process usually takes place in the months following the Local Government elections. The purpose of this policy is to provide licensing applicants, community members and other interested parties with an indication of how the Board will manage the sale of alcohol in licenced premises in its areas. The policy will include things like permitted opening hours, children and young person’s access and will identify any areas of overprovision of licensed premises within the Boards locality. The Policy must promote the five licensing objectives.

Before publishing their policies, Boards are required to consult with the Local Licensing Forum, Police Scotland and the local Health Board. Some will send it to Community Councils or organisations representing the interests of the licensed trade. It is important to Licensing Boards that this is not a desktop exercise and that they ascertain the views of as many stakeholders as possible during the process.  It is crucial that those involved in the licenced trade engage in consultations to express their views particularly if there are areas they wish to change or retain.

Areas for consultation

With almost all temporary Covid measures coming to an end, the policy consultations provides a timely opportunity for Boards to consider a change in the hospitality sector and adapt their policies accordingly.

The policy covers a wide range of topics, some areas Boards are expected to focus on are set out as follows:

  • Occasional licences: The pandemic saw a major increase in the use of Occasional Licences for outdoor spaces and this coupled with the recent Scottish Government Consultation on permitted development rights may alter the approach Licensing Boards take towards Occasional Licences going forward. Many are very supportive of the developing café culture but where occasionals are used routinely to license a premises it is thought there might be limits or rules imposed in an attempt to control those thought to be circumventing the licensing process.
  • Outside areas: These spaces have become more crucial in recent years and some Boards are expected to reassess standards conditions effecting them particularly in relation to times of use, music and entertainment.
  • Children and Young People: Licensing boards must consider measures that may be necessary to protect children and young persons from harm in licenced premises. This may be done by limiting access to specific parts of premises. For example, the Highland Board specify that children under the age of 16 should be excluded from any room where there is a bar counter after 10pm. Other policies also specify the hours when young persons should be allowed entry until. In the last Policy review Glasgow Licensing Board took into account the views of young people expressed during the consultation and updated their policy to allow for access terms at the discretion of operators subject to applications being lodged.
  • Licenced Hours: There is a significant divergence of approaches to licensed hours across the country with some Boards like Aberdeen allowing later hours for all, while others stick to the traditional requirement to provide entertainment to benefit from hours past 12 midnight or 1am. When assessing licenced hours, especially for on sales and late night premises, boards will placed considerable on weight on crime and public order statistics.
  • Deliveries: the use of third party food delivery platforms and changing habits since the pandemic has seen a boom in traditional licensed premises selling food and alcohol on a takeaway and delivery basis. It is expected that Boards will take the policy review as an opportunity to specify standard delivery conditions in new policies and potentially insist on takeaways and deliveries being listed as activities within the operating plan of the licence.

Whilst Licensing Board policies are not permitted to be drafted in a way that is strictly supportive of alcohol sales, Boards are expected to strike a balance between promoting the licensing objectives and also supporting the hospitality industry and economy. Particularly in the wake of the pandemic and the current economic crisis, Boards would not do well to hinder an already struggling industry. This is why it is essential for licence holders, hospitality staff and any involved in the industry to feedback to the Boards’ information that would help them strike this difficult balance.

We have established a dedicated page on our website with links to all current Policy Consultations. This will be regularly updated. Board policies are due to come to an end in November 2023. Keep a close eye on this page and what is happening in your local area and if you would like assistance in contributing to the consultation please do get in touch and a member of our team will gladly assist you.

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