Premises Licence suspension - non payment of annual fee - Wednesday 18th April 2012
From 25th April 2012, s.120 of the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act will amend the Licensing Act 2003, so that Councils must suspend a Premises Licence (or Club Premises Certificate) if the holder has failed to pay the annual fee.
There is a "grace period" of 21 days before the Licence will be suspended. If failure to pay was due to an administrative error or the amount of the fee is disputed, the Licence will not be suspended. Notice must be given to the Licence holder 2 working days before the suspension takes effect. The suspension ceases to have effect on the day the Council provides a receipt for payment of the fee.
Councils will notify forthcoming suspensions to the Licence holder at the address held on their records. However, a notice may not come to the attention of the Licence holder and therefore it is likely that licences will be suspended (and offences committed) even if the holder is not aware of this.
I imagine that the helpline will be busy with callers whose Licence has been suspended over a busy weekend when it may not be possible to obtain a receipt for payment of the fee. If payments are made online via the Council's website, it is unclear whether payment confirmation will constitute "written acknowledgement of receipt of the fee". When assisting operators caught out by this provision, we would argue that a receipt for payment online does qualify and that licensable activities can proceed.
The time frame for introduction of locally set licensing fees will be announced by the Government later this year.
Richard Williams - LR Law - Licensing Solicitors