Liquor Licensing

The intoxicating liquors law were reformed in 2003. The power to license public houses, restaurants, places of entertainment and other places that sell alcohol was transferred from the licensing court to the local authorities. Key staff members must now also hold a personal licence, which is separate to the premises licence.

Rules as to when establishments can open, for how long, and under what criteria are now not laid down in statute but are individual to the premises and are contained in the conditions on each premises is licensed. It is theoretically possible for a premises licence to be held which allows 24-hour opening, but few exist.

Most licensed premises do not have 24-hour licences. After 2005 they could apply for licences which allowed them longer opening hours than before. There is no obligation for licensees to use all the time permitted to them. Many premises which still close for commercial reasons at, say, 23.00 during most of the week, may well have licences permitting them to continue longer, perhaps for several hours. The service of alcohol must still cease when the actual licence closing time arrives.

Licensable Activities

The following activities must be licensed;

  • the retail sale of alcohol,
  • the supply of alcohol in clubs,
  • the provision of late night refreshment, and
  • the provision of regulated entertainment

“Regulated entertainment” is a performance of a play, an exhibition of a film, an indoor sporting event,  a boxing or wrestling entertainment (both indoors and outdoors), a performance of live music, any playing of recorded music, a performance of dance or entertainment of a similar description.

“Late night refreshment” is the supply of hot food or drink to the public for consumption, both on or off the premises, between 23:00 and 05:00.

The licensing authorities are local councils. For a premises licence, the licensing authority is the council for the place where the premises are (and where they straddle a boundary the applicant may choose which one). For a personal licence, it is the licensing authority in whose area the applicant lives.

Personal Licence

The Licensing Authority is responsible for the issue of Personal Licences. A Personal Licence gives the holder authority to supply or sell by retail or authorise the supply or sale by retail, of alcohol by anybody in employment in a Licensed Premises.

A Personal Licence is issued after an applicant has passed an exam, the National Certificate for Personal Licence Holders, or NCPLH. The applicant must also undergo a Criminal Record Bureau (CRB) examination. The areas covered are drink driving, assault and drugs related convictions or charges.

If successful, in his/her NCPLH examination and by passing his/her CRB check, the Licensing Authority will grant the applicant a Personal Licence, valid for 10 years. If a PLH moves to a different area either whilst their Personal Licence is due to expire, or has moved for a considerable amount of time and their Personal Licence will need to renew during the time of expiry, the PLH will need to return to the Licensing Authority that issued his/her Personal Licence to renew it

A PLH must inform the Issuing Licensing Authority of:

  • any change of address;
  • any change of name;
  • any convictions or charges of drink driving;
  • any drugs related convictions or charges;
  • any convictions or charges of assault; or
  • any convictions or charges of any other serious crime, for example, murder or rape

Failure to comply to the above results in (where applicable, higher) charges, convictions, fines and the revocation of a Personal Licence.


Tobacco products may not be sold to persons under 18 years of age. Warnings are required where tobacco is sold. The warnings must be of certain sizes. There are limitations on the content of advertising, in particular, limiting the content to the name or trademark. Designated warnings must be given. There are restrictions on advertising and promoting tobacco in the press on the billboards intranet and most apparent slot counters to sponsorship

If one possesses transports or displays tobacco product for the sale in the UK, they must contain a complaint “duty paid” physical mark indicating excise duty has been paid.

There are strict rules in relation to the labelling and sale of tobacco products.  There are restrictions on tobacco for oral use.

Food Safety

There are obligations to ensure the quality and safety of food sold at a premises for human consumption. Food must not be kept that is unfit or dangerous to health, at variance with what the customer is entitled to expect, or described or presented in a way that is misleading. The Food Safety Act, 1990 sets out the obligations that apply.

A premises on which food is stored prepared or distributed must be registered with the local authority. This includes a restaurant café, canteens market stalls mobile catering and delivery vans.

Food Producers and Distributors

A producer and distributor of food must register with the competent authority, usually the local food authority.  If one handles animal products, approval may be necessary from the Food Standards Agency or local food authority.

Producers, processors and distributors of food must

  • meet microbiological requirements;
  • meet temperature control requirements;
  • maintain the cold chain;
  • use sampling and analysis;
  • ensure adequate and suitable equipment and premises;
  • handle control store and dispose of food waste properly;
  • control pests and use proper cleaning and disinfection procedures;
  • ensure staff personal cleanliness and hygiene;
  • ensure health training;
  • identify food hazards by critical control point of a hazard reduction;
  • have monitoring procedures
  • Keep records.

An operator of a food premises must meet requirements in relation to microbiological contamination in respect of certain risky of products. Food, placed on the market must be free from chemical contaminants. There are requirements in respect of sampling and testing. The hazard analysis and critical control point principles must be used. The procedures will not have to be duplicated if applied within the framework of the existing food management system.  Records are required.


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Legal Guide Limited, UK Law (An Irish Overview), and Paul McMahon have no liability arising from reliance on anything contained in this article or on this website

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