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Summer is Here: The Legal Position of the Beer Garden and Outside Seating

12 July 2017 |

The warm weather will normally see greater use of your external seating areas and this often leads to a rise in complaints about noise.

Check whether any external area (i.e. your beer garden or external seating front and back) forms part of the licensed area as shown on the plan attached to your premises licence. The licensable activity is the sale of alcohol, not consumption, so providing your premises licence contains no relevant restrictions, then alcohol bought inside the premises can normally be taken outside for consumption. However, if an external bar is set up then this would normally require licensing consent (and possibly planning) as this creates a new point of sale.

Confusion often arises with the provision of a waiter/waitress taking orders in an outside area, for example a terrace or indeed within a beer garden, and payment is made by way of a mobile credit card machine, or cash, where the customer may not even set foot inside the premises at all. The position here is sometimes misunderstood since it might be reasonable to assume, because that the transaction takes place on the terrace/beer garden where the alcohol is also delivered and consumed, this is where the sale actually takes place. The legal position is again reasonably straightforward in that it is the place where the alcohol is “appropriated” to the order – this is normally where the alcohol in question is selected and set aside for that customer e.g. behind the bar.

So far, we have only really covered alcohol. If it is intended to provide any form of entertainment in external areas then an application for a licence or variation is likely to be required. There are certain very limited exceptions but advice should be sought before going ahead.

For a start, most complaints arise either because of the high volume of noise or because noise becomes more intrusive later in the evening. This has been a particular problem since the introduction of the smoking ban. It is generally advisable to engage with people making complaints as some issues can be resolved amicably and matters often start to escalate if people think they’re being ignored. If problems are not resolved then intervention by the Authorities, normally Noise Pollution Control, is likely.

They have a number of powers at their disposal which can include:

  • A licensing review which can lead to amended or additional conditions to attach to the premises licence or, in some situations, restrictions on trading hours especially for external areas.
  • Service of a Noise Abatement Notice if it can be established that a nuisance exists.

Some premises with larger exterior areas may wish to install either permanent furniture and/or play equipment. Planning permission may be required as this may amount to “development” so it is important to take advice before committing to expenditure. The use of facilities specially designed for use by children also carries potential risks as accidents can happen so do carry out a full risk assessment and ensure that you have full insurance cover.

The important thing for your customers this summer is for them to enjoy themselves – and the important thing for you this summer is to ensure that they can do so within the law. If you would like to chat through your individual circumstances with an experienced member of our Licensing & Regulatory Team, you can drop us a message or give us a call here.

The contents of this article are intended for general information purposes only and shall not be deemed to be, or constitute legal advice. We cannot accept responsibility for any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in respect of this article.

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