As opportunities arise to grow your pub estate, owners of pubs and bars will want to make sure that there are no skeletons in the licensing cupboard that might be a cause of significant issues later on.

It is therefore crucially important to carry out proper licensing checks before taking the plunge. As attractive as the opportunity may seem at first blush, without some careful consideration at the outset of what the premises can and cannot do there may be issues (and cost) further down the line. Partner in TLT’s licensing team Ewen Macgregor reviews some of the key considerations:

The premises licence

Owners of pubs and bars should ensure they are provided with a copy of the most up to date premises licence detailing the premises licence holder and the permitted hours and conditions attached to the licence. Purchasers have in the past bought premises only to find the premises licence holder was insolvent and the licence had lapsed!

It is worth checking to see if there are any conditions that appear at Annex 3 of the licence (conditions attached following a hearing) as this may highlight any past issues (have conditions been attached that specifically relate to noise for example; has there been a review of the licence?)

If the licence inhibits ambitions as it stands, you should pick up with the licensing officer at the council or police at an early stage to gauge their response on an application to vary the licence.

The licence plan

Requesting a copy of the most up to date licence plan is a must. Checking the current approved plan against the existing layout of the premises to see if any unauthorised alterations have been carried out is essential if you find the plan is incorrect, get this resolved before you purchase.

Does the red line on the licence plan include any external areas, and if so are there any restrictions on the use of outside areas?

Gaming machine permit

Does the premise have the benefit of a gaming machine permit, and if so for how many machines?

Other permissions

If the premises benefit from other permissions such pavement licence, tables and chairs / marriage licence, make sure you check the expiry dates.

If the expiry date is in the near future have applications to renew these permissions been submitted?

Ahead of completing the purchase, it would be a good idea to check with councils how permissions are managed on the acquisition of a new operator. Some are happy for new operators to simply notify them of the change, others will require a new application.

Local knowledge

We would advise purchasers to speak to the local police and council licensing officers. They should be able to provide details of historic or ongoing issues. Early contact with the officers is also an important step in developing relationships with key stakeholders at an early stage. Spending time in the premises and speaking to the locals will also be extremely beneficial and provide insight into how the business trades

Steps to take on completion

On completion of the purchase the licence will need to be transferred into the new owner’s name/ company. The new owner will need to obtain a consent to transfer from the existing licence holder in advance of completion. The transfer application can be lined up to be submitted on the day of completion and take immediate effect upon request.

If the current DPS is not staying on at the pub then new owners will also need to make an application to add the new DPS on to the licence. They may also need to submit an application for a new gaming machine permit.

Taking note of the above in advance of completion will enable focus on key requirements when taking ownership – running a great pub and providing excellent service to your customers!

Q. Rugby World Cup – can I show the games in my pub?

Live television does not require licensing via the premises licence- live screenings are not considered a licensable activity. As the matches are being shown on the ITV channels, then so long as you do not charge entry to the premises for the matches, you are not likely to have to pay any licence fee for the screenings either.

Q. Some of my customers vape indoors. Is this legal?

There is no law against vaping in public places similar to the smoking ban and therefore the decision is yours as to whether you allow or ban it. Either way, you need to be clear about the rules you are setting and getting the message across as customers will no doubt have views either way.

Read more from Pub & Bar's June 2023 issue: Pub & Bar - Magazine (

This article was first published in Pub & Bar

Date published

02 June 2023


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