Licensing renewal – attention all licence holders
WHILE the Covid pandemic has affected businesses at large across Northern Ireland, its impact has been particularly catastrophic for the hospitality sector.
So it's important that licence holders protect an important asset by ensuring their liquor licences are renewed on time and without issue on the next statutory renewal date of September 30 this year
The renewals must be lodged not less than three weeks prior to September 1 as per the statutory requirement laid down by the Licensing (NI) Order 1996.
If you are one of the 1,800 licence holders in Northern Ireland, you should be preparing at this stage with regards to the renewal of your licence as you do not want to fall foul of the time limit as others have done in the past.
Missing this deadline could result in licensed premises having to close until such times as the licence has been renewed. If a renewal is made more than 12 months out of time, a licence holder must apply for the new grant of a licence at considerable financial cost and risk.
It is imperative that licence holders do not make a misdeclaration to the court, as part of the renewal process a licence holder must confirm that no alterations have been carried out to any licensed area without the courts consent. In circumstances where alterations have been carried out without consent the renewal could, depending on the type of alteration, be invalidated.
Consequently, a licence holder may need to bring an application for a new grant of a licence which, again, could have a significant financial impact in terms of fees and result in premises having to close pending a successful new grant.
If any alterations have been carried out more than five years prior to a renewal, the consequences for a licence holder could be catastrophic, with the licence no longer being deemed to be valid and subsisting.
As a result of social distancing requirements, many licence holders may have created outdoor drinking areas and made other structural alterations to their premises to comply with regulations. These alterations may have been done without the court's consent.
Licence holders should therefore at this stage obtain copies of the most up to date licensing plans lodged with the court and complete an inspection of their premises to ensure the plans accord with the premises "on the ground".
If there is a discrepancy licence holders should seek advice from a solicitor as soon as possible to establish what is required to ensure their licence is successfully renewed in September.
:: Kirsty Mairs (firstname.lastname@example.org) is partner/head of hospitality at DWF Belfast (www.dwf.law)