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Licensing Act 2003

The Licensing Act 2003 combines the licensing of the sale of alcohol, the provision of regulated entertainment and the provision of late-night refreshment.

The following are licensable under the act:

  • The retail sale of alcohol (including via the internet or mail order)
  • The wholesale of alcohol to members of the public
  • The supply of alcohol to members of registered clubs
  • The supply of hot food or drink between 11pm and 5am.

The provision of regulated entertainment in the presence of an audience, which includes:

  • Performance of a play
  • Film exhibitions
  • Indoor sporting events
  • Boxing or wrestling events (both indoor and outdoor)
  • Performing live music
  • Playing recorded music
  • Dance performances
  • Entertainment of similar descriptions

There are various types of licence available under the Licensing Act 2003.

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The Deregulation Bill received Royal Assent on the 26 March 2015 and made a number of changes to the Licensing Act 2003. The amendments are:

  • The requirement to renew personal licences has been abolished with effect from 1 April 2015.
  • The offence of selling liqueur confectionary to children under 16 will be repealed with effect from 26 May 2015. After that date a person of any age can buy liqueur confectionary.
  • The requirement to report lost or stolen licences to the police before applying for duplicates will be abolished with effect from 26 May 2015.
  • The limit of the number of temporary events that can be held at single premises will increase from 12 to 15 per year from 1 January 2016.
  • Changes to regulated entertainment will take effect from 6 April 2015.
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Live amplified music in on-licensed premises authorised and open for the sale of alcohol does not require a licence for audiences up to 500 until 11pm. This includes beer gardens and terraces if they are included in the licensed premises. If a beer garden is not shown on the licensed plans then it is likely to be a workplace which benefits from a similar exemption. Karaoke is considered live music.

Live unamplified music does not need a licence anywhere and with no audience limit between 8am to 11pm.

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Recorded music in on-licensed premises benefits from the same exemption as live music, with the same audience limit of up to 500 and covers DJs and discos. Up until now most recorded music above background level has been licensable under the act. There is no equivalent "workplace" exemption.

Background live and recorded music continues to be exempt.

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'Plays' could include school performances but also a themed story with paid actors at a pub. 'Performances of dance' includes any dancing that is intended to entertain an audience. For audiences up to 500 (and in the case of indoor sporting events, up to 1,000) from 8am until 11pm none of these activities require authorisation under the act.

Lap-dancing and other forms of sexual entertainment on up to 11 occasions a year remain regulated under the 2003 act (any more will usually require a Sexual Entertainment Venue licence).

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A "not-for-profit" film exhibition held in a community premises between 8am until 11pm on any day provided that the audience does not exceed 500. The organiser must get consent from a person responsible for the premises and ensure that the screening abides by age classification ratings.

The showing of pre-recorded films which are incidental to some other activity is not licensable. This will be dependent on the facts of each case and whether the showing of any pre-recorded film is likely to undermine one of the licensing objectives.

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This activity remains regulated under the act (and now explicitly includes mixed martial arts), apart from Greco-Roman and freestyle wrestling provided that the audience does not exceed 1000 and takes place between 8am and 11pm.

None of the exemptions affect the need to apply for copyright licensing or the requirement to not cause a noise nuisance.

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The premises licence holder or club premises certificate holder must make sure that an age verification policy applies to the premises in relation to the sale or supply of alcohol.

This must as a minimum require individuals who appear to the responsible person to be under the age of 18 years of age to produce on request (before being served alcohol) identification bearing their photograph, date of birth, and a holographic mark.

Examples of acceptable ID include:

  • A form of ID which meets the criteria laid out above
  • Photo card driving licences
  • Passports
  • Proof of age cards bearing the PASS hologram (E.g. Validate or CitizenCard)

The premises licence holder or club premises certificate holder must ensure that staff (in particular staff who are involved in the supply of alcohol) are made aware of the existence and content of the age verification policy applied by the premises.

This condition does not exclude best practice schemes such as Challenge 21 or Challenge 25 which require individuals who appear to be under an age which is greater than 18 to provide ID.

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Last updated: 5 April 2017 | Last reviewed: 5 April 2017