The Advantage of Licensing Consultants
Many licensed businesses use legal representation (solicitors, lawyers or barristers) for their licensing processes; premises licence applications, variations, transfers or representation at review hearings. These businesses miss out on the advantages which can be gained through the use of effective professional licensing consultants; such as Beyond the Blue’s Licensing Consultants >>
Licensing; a Civil Process
In some ways this default position of employing legal representation in the form of solicitors, lawyers or barristers, is a hangover from the old 1964 Licensing Act. Under that now defunct legislation, all licensing procedures were conducted through the Magistrate’s Court and as such there were really only two options; represent yourself or seek legal representation.
The Licensing Act 2003 changed the status quo and the licensing process is now conducted through the local authority, effectively making it a civil process; in all but the final appeal stage.
The Licensing Process
Licensing procedures are generally conducted in a maximum of three stages:
- Local Authority Licensing Committee Hearing
- Appeal to Magistrate’s Court
Only stage three (an appeal to a Magistrate’s Court) is a true legal process and needs to involve some form of legal representation.
Our target is always to reach a conclusion at either stage one or where required, stage two; after all the greater number of stages required, the longer and more expensive the process becomes.
The Advantage of Our Licensing Consultants
It would be flippant to say there is no place for legal representation except in the case of appeal to Magistrate’s Court, it is more accurate to say there is no requirement for legal representation.
Licensing Law is a specialist subject and the interpretation of the law in this area requires the expertise of people who practice it regularly and who keep up-to-date with changes in the law, local licensing policy and its interpretation.
Most general solicitors do not have this specific expertise, as their knowledge base is more general law; the analogy we use is that you wouldn’t visit your GP for critical specialist surgery.
That said, there are a number of legal firms who specialise in licensing law and they can be effective; we make these introductions where we feel legal representation is essential for our clients.
Our licensing consultants offer a cost effective alternative and a more proactive approach which delivers very positive results. Beyond the Blue’s licensing consultants take a different approach to that taken by many legal representatives, in the initial two stages of any application or variation of a premises licence.
Legal representatives tend to take a more argumentative approach to licensing process and in many cases we have witnesses a quite confrontational court room style tactics; this approach can be very effective in a court room, but can be counterproductive in the initial stages of licensing procedures.
Stage 1 - Premises Licence Application
Our licensing consultants will consult the key responsible authorities first, before they even submit an application. In some licensing authority areas, this co-operation allows us to overcome many of the initial hurdles and agreed solutions before the application is submitted; this results in significantly less representations (objections to the application) being received.
If representations are received, our consultants will again negotiate in a positive and proactive way, with the goal of agreeing reasonable solutions for our client.
Because we work in a professional capacity not only with applicants, but also with residents associations, the police, local authorities and others, we understand the concerns of all involved in the process. This gives us an advantage, allowing us to mediate in a positive conciliatory manner; not something a legal representative can often achieve, due to their status and the preconceptions people hold.
Think about it; how does it feel when approached by someone introducing themselves as ‘I’m a lawyer representing…’; it can be intimidating, is rarely followed by good news and doesn’t engender a feeling of empathy towards someone who has made a representation against your application or asked for a review of your premises licence.
Stage 2 – Licensing Committee Hearing
It is not unusual for an application to go the second stage, which is a hearing in front of the local Licensing Committee; especially in areas where a special licensing policy such a ‘stress area’, ‘saturation area’ or ‘cumulative impact zone’ is in place,
Our licensing consultants approach to representing a client at a licensing committee hearing will also differ to that of most legal representatives.
Licensing Committees are made up of elected local councillors whose main function is to represent local residents, local services and local businesses. In our extensive experience, they don’t react very positively to being spoken at; the confrontational style which is often required in a court room setting, is rarely appropriate for licensing committee hearings.
The decisions which licensing committees make, are based on three factors; the evidence and arguments presented by any party present (for or against the application), licensing law and the local licensing policy. These are three areas where our licensing consultants excel.
Arguments for the Application - Because we are involved with the licence application from the outset, we have intimate knowledge and ownership of the process to that point, this allows us to deliver comprehensive professional presentations and arguments to the licensing committee at a hearing.
Knowledge of Licensing Law - Our licensing consultants deliver training at all levels in licensing law and associated legislation, they therefore have an intimate knowledge of the Licensing Act 2003 and the latest amendments. The feedback we receive from learners regularly refers to the excellent knowledge of our trainers and their ability to answer any question put to them; in the last year, 99.5% of all learners attending training rated their trainer as either 5 (90%) or 4 (9.5%) out of 5 (5 being ‘excellent’).
Knowledge of Licensing Policy - With over 400 licensing authorities throughout England & Wales, anyone who claims to have an intimate knowledge of all licensing authority policy statements is being untruthful. Our licensing consultants have an excellent knowledge of licensing policy generally, through our work with local licensing authorities as well as the many premises licence applications and licensing committee hearing we have successfully completed. Prior to any new application we familiarise ourselves with the latest local licensing policy in order to be able to reference it in applications and hearings.
Stage 3 – Magistrates Court Appeal
At Beyond the Blue we have an excellent success rate, the majority of our cases are successfully completed in stages one or two and thus appeals to a Magistrates Court, for our cases, are very rare.
Some legal representatives treat stage one and two as merely a preamble for their appearance at Magistrate’s Court, where they excel and their skills are most valuable.
Our approach is somewhat different, we believe that as the appeal to a Magistrate’s Court is the final step (with the exception of judicial review in certain cases) and therefore everything possible should be done, without unduly compromising the business plan, to reach a resolution in stages one and two; this also saves potentially thousands of pounds worth of costs.
However where an appeal to Magistrate’s Court is required, a case turns from a civil to a legal process and does require legal representation. In these cases we take a step back and introduce clients to our legal partners; lawyers and barristers who specialise in licensing and who have exceptional track records.
We work with the appointed legal representatives to ensure they are fully briefed on the process and provide them with access to our files and documents. Where required we can be present and act as expert witnesses at a magistrates court appeal hearing.
Costs Savings of Licensing Consultants
We offer a more costs effective solution, while providing an exceptional quality in the services and representation we deliver; which is demonstrated in our success rates and the results we achieve for clients (see below).
The reason we can achieve these savings, is that we do not have the expensive overheads of some legal firms. While we believe a good barrister delivers value for money in a Magistrates Court Appeal process, their skills don’t always apply to the application process and Licensing Committee Hearing stages.
Our costs are transparent and compare favourably with those charged by legal firms for similar services; we would expect the saving you see to run into hundreds if not thousands of pounds.
Successful Results Delivered by our Licensing Consultants
No application, variation or review of a premises licence is too big or two small for our Licensing Consultants to take on.
We are professional and honest and always make our recommendations in the best interest of the client. We gauge our success rate, by the outcomes we deliver, not the fees we charge.
A brief selection of our recent applications demonstrate the success we have had with a variety of clients:
- Household Cavalry Museum & Horse Guards Parade Ground – Horse Guards Parade ground is home to State visits by world leaders, the annual trouping of the colours and hosted Olympic beach volleyball. The Household Cavalry Museum on Horse Guards Parade is used as an private event space and for larger events they also use the parade ground itself. As one of London’s most well-known landmarks and an outdoor events venue with a large capacity in the heart of London, we had to consider the effect these events would have on local residents; specifically those living in Downing Street next door to the parade ground. Outcome – Representation were received from the Police and Environmental Health, we managed to resolve all concerns without the need to take the matter further and following the inclusion of some acceptable conditions; the representations were subsequently withdrawn and the premises licence was granted.
- Italian Traditions – ‘&Pasta’ is located on Dean Street in the heart of the ‘West End Stress Area’ which covers Soho. We secured a very rare new premises licence in an area where new licenses are notoriously difficult to obtain. By working closely with the Police in a proactive way and consulting with the Residents Association, we satisfied them of the benefits of the new premises and put measures into place to ensure that the Licensing Objectives would not be affected in a negative way. Outcome – Three representations were resolved in advance of the licensing committee hearing. Environmental Health representation was taken to a Licensing Committee Hearing where we obtained a positive ruling for the client and the premises licence was granted.
- BlackRock – When BlackRock the multinational investment & asset management company moved into their new 16 floor, 25,000m2 headquarters in the City of London, they required a new premises licence; in order for them to be able to entertain clients, employees and run charitable events. The challenge was to develop a licence application which satisfied local residents, neighbouring businesses, the Environmental Health and the Police, that such a large premises with three balconies on the upper floors, would have a detrimental impact on the area. The plan was challenging due to the very complex nature of the premises, particularly in relation to the security measures of a financial centre. The premises is also located in a highly sensitive area of the City of London. Outcome – We negotiated extensively with a local residents group, the Police and Environmental Health prior to submitting the application, which then proceeded without representation; the premises licence was granted.
- Licensing Consultancy Services – Beyond the Blue
- Premises Licence Application Service – Beyond the Blue
Author - Peter Mayhew is the Managing Director of Beyond the Blue Training & Consultancy. He delivers training courses and provides expert opinion on alcohol & entertainment licensing, health & safety, drug awareness and providing solutions to workplace violence through conflict resolution for individuals, organisations and public bodies. Peter is a frequent contributor to industry publications.
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