Licensing laws – a legal guide

Read our quick guide to licensing laws in England. The latest Government guidance in relation to Covid 19, last updated 11 September 2020 can be found at

Applying for a licence

If you are setting up a new business, buying an existing business, organising an event or considering a career in the licensed trade, you may need to apply for a licence and UK licensing laws, (the Licensing Act 2003) covers licensable activities; the sale of alcohol, providing regulated entertainment and selling hot food at night.

Licensing laws are there to prevent crime, promote public safety, protect children from harm and also prevent public nuisance.

There are also different types of licences to apply for and depending on the type of activity one of more may be required:

  • Premises licences
  • Club Premises certificates
  • Personal licences
  • Temporary event notices

Licences are obtained from the Local Authority and authorisation for a licensed activity is only granted after the completion of the licensing process. There are different considerations depending on the type of licence and you should consider consulting a solicitor to advise or assist. Failure to obtain the relevant licence could have a significant impact on the business, individual, organisation or client. If a licence is refused, your solicitor can advise on appealing the decision.

Alcohol is probably the one most people are familiar with and licensing laws have existed for over 500 years regulating the sale of it. Modern laws covering pubs, bars, personal and temporary licences are focused on preventing the sale to people aged under 18, preventing public disorder and crime.

Entertainment which is regulated by UK licensing law is quite wide and includes theatrical performances, music, concerts, dancing, sporting events, film exhibitions and cinema. This includes entertainment for members of the public, members of a club or if it is provided to make a profit.

Late night refreshments are defined as a business selling hot food or hot drink between 11pm and 5am and includes mobile premises. There are however some exemptions to this.

Given the complexity of both the laws and making sure you have the correct licence in time for your business to open, if taking over an existing business or if you are planning one off events, you should consider taking legal advice in good time.

Leroy Bradley can be reached at