Strengthening of Mandatory Licensing Conditions
The government have published their alcohol strategy response to the consultation on minimum pricing for units of alcohol and much as anticipated, they have backed down at this stage from the introduction of a minimum price per unit.
They have also backed down from banning multi-pack promotions which would have prevented the most aggressive alcohol promotions in supermarkets.
We feel that a minimum price per unit would have been good for almost all alcohol retailers in the long run and although the government have left the door ajar for a future introduction of such a policy, the political fall-out it would generate means we are unlikely to see any return to minimum unit pricing in the near future.
Pubs, Bars, Nightclubs and Restaurants Targeted
It also seems that the whole emphasis of the consultation has been turned on its head in the government’s response.
The distinct impression given initially was that government saw the main problems associated with alcohol being from the sale of cheap alcohol in shops and supermarkets in particular; there were even calls from some ministers to encourage people back into bars and restaurants where managers and staff could exert control over consumption.
As it turns out the conclusions in the report seem to indicate the exact opposite now.
All the restrictions targeting supermarkets and shops have been shelved and instead there is going to be more focus on the on-trade; bars, pubs, restaurants, nightclubs etc.
Strengthening of the Mandatory Conditions
As premises licence holders and designated premises supervisors will be aware, they are legally bound to meet all nine mandatory conditions; although some only apply to the on-trade.
Failure to comply with a mandatory condition can attract a maximum penalty of a £20,000 fine and / or 6 months imprisonment.
The suggestion in the consultation response is that the government intends to strengthen some of the mandatory condition.
The exact details of the change to the ‘Irresponsible Promotions’ mandatory condition is yet to be clarified, however the initial suggestion is that the wording which will be amended to provide more robust and prescribed definitions in respect of the nature of those promotions which will be deemed ‘irresponsible’.
The suggestion is to:
Make all the existing listed promotions irresponsible in all circumstances, removing the need for judgment by business or those enforcing the condition. This reduces the risk that the condition is applied inconsistently.
- Remove the exemption for table meals that currently applies to the ban on offering unlimited or unspecified quantities of alcohol for free [or discounted] or for a fixed fee.
- Require businesses to ensure that irresponsible promotions do not occur, rather than taking ‘all reasonable steps’.
There will also be some consolidation, reducing the overall number of active mandatory conditions; however this will not affect premises operationally, as those conditions being scrapped will be incorporated into others.
For example; the current mandatory condition which prevents the dispensing of alcohol ‘directly into the mouth of another person’ will be added as an ‘irresponsible promotion’.
Smaller Measures – Start Planning for Change
There is also a clear intention to strengthen the mandatory condition in respect of ‘smaller measures’ for licenced premises.
Currently the mandatory condition states that ‘smaller measures must be offered and a notice of their availability made’. Smaller measures means:
- Wine must be available in 125ml measure
- Beer must be available in half (or third) pint measures
- Spirits must be available in 25ml or 35ml single measures
A ‘notice of their available made’ means premises licence holders must make the availability of smaller measures clear on their price lists and menus. This has often been reluctantly complied with by premises licence holders, by way of the incorporation of small print towards the bottom on the page…
The government intend to make sure that the smaller measures are not only included on price lists, but they are also costed; so a price will have to be assigned and publicised for smaller measures.
The government are also seeking to incorporate a rule that when a customer does not specify the size of the measure they require, the server MUST notify them of the smallest measure available, as well as any other measures they may choose to offer.
This means in practice that were someone to go into a pub and ask for a Heineken, the person serving them must ask if they would like a half pint or a pint; not simply assume it is a pint being asked for.
The suggestion is that the mandatory condition will be strengthened to require the designated premises supervisor (DPS) to ensure that these measures are more clearly defined on price lists and that servers notify customers who do not specify a measure of the smallest measure available. The DPS would be liable therefore for a maximum fine of £20,000 and / or 6 months imprisonment if this did not occur.
Weights & Measures Act & Trade Descriptions
We would therefore suggest to our clients that they consider making the appropriate changes to the layout of price lists and menus as part of their regular cycle and incorporate these changes at the next opportunity, rather than incurring the additional cost once the change in law comes into force.
One consequence of these changes will be to highlight the errors currently being made by the vast majority of licensed premises in relation to the weights & measures act 1985; especially with wine.
The Weights & Measures Act prescribes that wine by the glass may be sold in measures of 125ml, 175ml or multiples thereof; therefore it can be sold in 250ml as this is a multiple of 125ml.
Legislation therefore prescribes that wine sold by the glass has two descriptions, ‘Small’ and ‘Large’:
- Small Glass of Wine = 125ml
- Large Glass of Wine = 175ml
Please note there are also wine sample measures which can be used – More Information >>
Therefore by law your menus and price lists must describe the glasses of wine you sell with the relevant ‘Small’ or ‘Large’ description in the appropriate measures. Offering a 175ml galls of wine and describing it as small would contravene current legislation.
If you choose to sell wine as many do in the 250ml Glass this must be described on the price list as ‘Wine – 250ml’ NOT ‘Large’ as this refers to a 175ml glass.
With the clarification of this mandatory condition regarding ‘smaller measures’, there will naturally be a need to better define the volume of wine you are selling, as you will have to price each one separately. It makes considerable sense to ensure your marketing also complies with Price Marketing Laws, Weights and Measures Act and Trade Descriptions Act.
For example if you currently sell wine only in 175ml and 250ml, new price lists must highlight the 125ml option as well:
Example Price List / Menu
Sauvignon Blanc Small - £2.00 Large - £3.00 250ml - £5.00
Merlot 125ml - £2.00 175ml – £3.00 250ml - £5.00
Age Verification Policies
Having an ‘age verification policy’ will remain as a mandatory condition, however the responsibility for the enforcement will move away from the premises licence holder and be held by the Designated Premises Supervisor (DPS).
Failure to enforce the age verification policy could therefore lead to a maximum £20,000 fine and / or 6 months imprisonment for the DPS.
However the requirement that age verification documents should carry a holographic mark will be relaxed to allow those which carry UV markings to be permissible. This will bring more international identity documents into the list of acceptable forms ID.
Minimum Price of Duty + VAT
Although the proposed 45p per unit requirement, the government is going to impose a ban on premises selling alcohol as a loss-leader.
The government will enforce a law to ensure that alcohol is not sold below the level of the ‘Duty’ + ‘VAT’. This should see a 4%abv can of beer not sold below 40p.
Annual TEN’s Allowance to Increase to 15
The maximum number of Temporary Event Notices (TEN’s) permitted at any one premises in any one year (January to December) will increase from 12 to 15, however the limit on the number of days (midnight to midnight) which can be covered by a TEN at any one premises in any one year, will remain at the current 21 day limit.
Personal Licence Renewal
The long predicted fear that Licensing Authorities will be swamped by personal licence renewals in 2015 has been solved, by the government proposal that personal licences will no longer need to be renewed and that their validity will not expire.
While from an administrative perspective this seems sensible, this tentative move away from the requirement for what is already a very low level of continuous professional development in the field of licensing, will we fear lead to future problems as ill-informed licence holders seek to comply with outdated legislation they learned in some case over a decade ago; and in many case never learned…
Lost or stolen licences will also no longer need to be reported to the police.
We Can Help
Our licensing consultants can carry out induction training with your front-line staff to ensure that you comply with the requirement to have all staff trained and to provide them with up-to-date information on their legal requirements. We also offer licensing health-checks where we inspect your premises and operation and report back to you with an action plan and reinforce those practices which already offer protection to the premises licence holder and DPS. Please contact us on 01784 434 392 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 for individuals, organisations and public bodies. Peter is a frequent contributor to industry publications.
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Page Updated: 19th August 2013