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Licensing news England and Wales - September 2016

What's been happening in the licensing community in England and Wales this month?

Alcohol and entertainment licensing news

Gambling news

Other licensing news

Licensing News

Fabric Nightclub licence revoked

The revocation of Fabric nightclub’s licence has been the biggest licensing news story of the month. The police summarily reviewed the licence following the deaths of two customers alleged to relate to drugs bought and taken in the club. The council suspended the licence and then revoked at the final hearing, ordering the club to close until any appeal has been determined.

Summary reviews following incidents of serious crime and/or disorder trigger a full review hearing, but allow for interim measures to be imposed in the short-term; in this case a suspension of the licence.

At the final review hearing, it is for the council to determine whether the interim steps are to be retained during the period in which a licence holder can appeal, up until any appeal lodged thereafter is determined, or whether the interim steps fall away following the hearing.

In this case, Fabric's licence was suspended as an interim measure. That suspension will now continue unless the club appeals and wins, or the licence is officially revoked because no appeal is lodged in time.

The political and world-wide interest in the case is down to the reputation of the club. Over 150,000 people have signed a petition to save the club and even the Mayor of London expressed a desire to see the club remain open and for all parties to find a way to work together.

The tragedy of these two deaths is a prime example of where the lines get blurred between personal responsibility and the responsibility of the operators of nightclubs. In this particular case, the committee also found numerous breaches of the licence condition and effectively stated that the evidence pointed to security and staff at the club turning a blind eye to drug taking and even selling. Whether these allegations stand up to scrutiny if the club appeals will be the crux of the case.

With worldwide interest in saving the club, we think that this is a chance that if the club appeals, some of the questions above might get cleared up a little.

Cheltenham consult on losing the levy

Cheltenham Council has launched a consultation on whether to abandon the late night levy (LNL). They were the second council, behind Newcastle, to adopt the controversial tax.

In 2016, Cheltenham adopted a Business Improvement District (BID). The majority of businesses liable to pay the LNL were also affected by the BID which would have made them subject to two separate levies.

Following discussions with councillors, senior council officers, representatives from both the BID and office of the Police and Crime Commissioner, it was proposed that the BID should supersede the LNL.

The consultation ends on 7 November 2016 and details can be found here.

Changes to the Licensing Act ahead: premises licence holders beware

The Immigration Act came into force in July 2016, and will make further changes to the Licensing Act in or around spring 2017. Despite the Act having a much wider remit, it was acknowledged in the preamble to the legislation that it is the leisure sector where a significant number of illegal immigrants have been found to work. As such, a number of the changes implemented directly affect premises licence holders.

Changes to the Licensing Act

The following amendments will be made directly to the Licensing Act 2003 - expected to come into force in Spring 2017:

  • the Secretary of State will become a responsible authority;
  • a premises or a personal licence holder must be entitled to work in the UK;
  • an immigration offence will be considered a ‘relevant offence’ in relation to personal licences;
  • an immigration officer will have a right to enter a licensed premises; and
  • an immigration officer will have the power to issue illegal working closure notices and apply for compliance orders.

Personal Licences

An applicant will not be able to apply for a personal licence if he or she is not entitled to live and work in the United Kingdom. In addition, a personal licence will lapse automatically if an individual ceases to be entitled to live and work in the UK. If the personal licence of a DPS lapses, alcohol sales at that premises would automatically be illegal.

The list of ‘relevant and foreign offences’ in relation to personal licences to be expanded to include ‘an offence under any of the Immigration Acts’.

Secretary of state as a responsible authority

Making the Secretary of State a responsible authority allows the Immigration Service to make representations to premises licence applications (new licences, transfers, variations and reviews).

Right of Entry to Licensed Premises

Immigration officers have been given the same power of entry to licensed premises as police and licensing officers. These powers have already come into force.

Illegal Working Closure Notices and Compliance Orders

An immigration officer will be able to issue an illegal working closure notice for up to 48 hours if he or she is satisfied that an a person who does not have the right to work in the UK is employed at the premises. The effect of a closure notice is to prohibit access to the premises unless authorised in writing by the immigration officer. If the employer can show that the employee complies with the employment requirements for workers, the immigration officer may cancel the notice. If the employer is unable to do so, an application for a compliance order must be made to the Court by the officer within 48 hours.

The Court may issue the compliance order if satisfied, on the balance of probabilities, that an illegal worker was working on the premises and that it is necessary to make the order to prevent the employer at the premises from employing illegal workers. Such an Order can:

  • prohibit access to the premises;
  • require right to work checks to be carried out; and
  • require right to work documents to be produced.

The Court will notify the licensing authority of the order and the licensing authority must then review the premises licence.

On service of a closure notice or a compliance order, an aggrieved party may apply to the Court to adjourn proceedings for up to 14 days or apply for the order to be varied or discharged. The Court will discharge the order if it is satisfied that it is no longer necessary to prevent an employer operating at the premises from employing an illegal worker.

An immigration factsheet issued by the Home Office can be found here.

Gambling News

Gambling Commission clarify position on in-play betting

The Gambling Commission has moved to update its view on the legal status of in play betting. This practice of placing of bets on an event which is in progress has become very popular in recent years.

The Commission has said: "We do not consider, at this time, that in-play betting represents a significant risk to the licensing objectives over and above any other type of gambling". They go on to say that operators should observe a number of points about best practice. This includes ensuring information deficits and connectivity speed advantages are explained to customers; and that licence holders will monitor patterns of in play betting to ensure any signs of risky behaviours are noted and responded to.

Rank and 888 joint bid for William Hill scrapped

Rank, the owner of Grosvenor casino and Mecca bingo halls and online gambling company 888, have announced that they are no longer pursuing a joint bid for William Hill.

It had previously been thought that the proposed transaction would have created a transformational force in the global betting and gaming industry, as well as the UK's largest multi-channel gambling operator by revenue and profit. It was also expected to have unlocked substantial cost and revenue synergies.

The reason given was a lack of meaningful engagement between the companies that prevented any deal being made.

Out and about

August mixed holidays with the usual hearings and meetings. A review of a licence in London had its own peculiarities, being brought by a restaurant business who wanted to restrict the space used by drinkers from a bar/ food offer opposite. The space was on a private pedestrian street that was owned by a landlord from whom both parties leased their premises. There was also an interesting point to be raised about whether the complaint was a public or private nuisance. In the end, the matter was settled at the door of the committee room. An example, however, of a party wanting their day in court, whether or not licensing was the correct forum.

This publication is intended for general guidance and represents our understanding of the relevant law and practice as at September 2016. Specific advice should be sought for specific cases. For more information see our terms & conditions.

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