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Q: I’ve been told by the licensing board that I need to make an additional annual fee payment for my premises licence following the rates revaluation last April. It seems the board has just discovered that the increased rateable value for my shop has tripped the licence into a higher fees category and they say I underpaid for the year from October 1, 2010 to September 30, 2011. Do I have to pay the extra amount at this late stage?

A: You are due to make an additional payment for the current year because the amount of annual fee is to be determined by reference to the rateable value on the date when the fee was due, namely, October 1, 2010 at which point the new value had been set. I’m aware that one board is also looking for second payment for the period from April 1, 2010 to September 30, 2010. That is not required. The fee to be paid for the 2009-2010 period was based on rateable values set at October 1, 2009 and the revaluation was not retrospective.

Q: I read that an appeal court has ruled that a discount card allowing reductions on a bar tariff doesn’t breach the Licensing Act. What’s the position where different amounts are charged for the same product in various parts of the same premises?

A: In that case it was decided that a scheme allowing cardholders a discount on a range of drinks doesn’t amount to a breach of the ‘72- hours’ rule regulating price variations. The benefits of the scheme in question were not time-limited so that there was no encouragement to consume cut-price alcohol in a short period of time – just what the ‘happy hours’ rule was designed to avoid. The same reasoning must apply where a licence holder chooses to charge different prices in a lounge bar and a public bar – or, indeed, in the case of a hotel with a restaurant, bar, function facilities and room service, and so on.

12 - SLTN - February 17, 2011

Minor news has to be welcomed

Changes to variations regulations will cut costs from system

IN the years I have been writing this column there have been precious few occasions when it has been possible to bring good news about changes to licens- ing laws. So, I’m pleased to be able to tell

you that new regulations likely to come into force in March will strip unwelcome costs out of the system. As matters stand, a number

of wholly uncontroversial li- cence changes require major variation applications, often at- tracting a hefty fee, which must come up for consideration at a licensing board meeting, pos- sibly after a wait of up to six months. Perhaps the most obvious ex- ample is a reduction in the ca- pacity of premises.

The Licensing (Minor Varia- tion) (Scotland) Regulations, which were in draft for consul- tation until February 14, set out a number of matters which need only be the subject of a minor variation. The application fee is set at just £20 and the licensing board must grant the applica- tion. Apart from capacity re- ductions, certain small capac- ity increases will be classified as minor, along with reductions in licensed hours, the cessa- tion of activities other than alcohol sales, and restrictions on the admission of children and young persons. You can view the whole list in the draft regulations at http://tinyurl. com/5smfbym. While this move is really wel- come, it’s not without a degree of controversy. A proposal that the trade should be required to make an application to add manda- tory conditions to a premises licence is already being widely criticised by lawyers and trade bodies.

Since premises licences were issued when the new Act came into force, a relaxation in al- cohol display restrictions at certain visitor attractions has altered a mandatory condition and, when the Alcohol Act comes into force in October, new conditions will be added. If the present proposal goes

forward it will create a point- less, administrative mess.

lawyers. Every month he writes on licensing law and answers readers’ questions in SLTN.

The Act has created a paper hell with many boards struggling to issue licences.

The Licensing (Scotland) Act 2005 has already created noth- ing less than a paper hell, with many boards struggling to issue licences or re-issue them after the grant of applications. There may be some other good news on the horizon, though. Down south, the Licensing Act allows the Secretary of State to extend licensed hours for an event of “national sig- nificance”.

It looks more or less certain

that the pub trade in England and Wales is likely to benefit from trading until 1am on April 29 and 30 on the occasion of the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton. That will spare operators the need to make an application for a temporary event notice. On this side of the border, there’s no parallel mechanism allowing an increase in hours to be set centrally by govern- ment.

Instead, the 2005 Act puts the matter in the hands of lo- cal licensing boards, which can make a “general determina- tion” extending licensed hours for an event of local or national significance. The wedding takes place on

a Friday and some licensing boards presently allow pubs a terminal hour of 1am on that day and Saturdays. In those cases a special wedding dispen-

Scotland’s leading licensing

CUMMINS Jack Cummins is one of

Some small capacity increases will be classified minor variations in the regulations.

sation allowing a later hour looks unlikely. As for the others, at the time

of writing, only South Ayrshire licensing board had made a “general determination”. Oper- ators in this area should contact the board’s office for details. Elsewhere, some boards have said that they will allow an ex- tra hour, but licence holders will have to make an applica- tion well in advance and pay a fee. Others have yet to take a decision. It strikes me that the royal wedding is exactly the sort of

The regulations list a number of matters which can be addressed with a minor variation.

event for which the general de- termination mechanism was designed and I find it difficult to understand why boards would wish to subject themselves to further administrative pres- sures rather than do it the easy way.

Do you have a legal question for Jack Cummins?

email or write to Legal Clinic; SLTN; Freepost; NATN 478; Glasgow G3 7BR

Jack Cummins is unable to enter into personal correspondence on readers’ questions.

The advice offered in SLTN is published for information only. No responsibility for loss occasioned by persons acting or refraining from action as a result of material contained on this page or elsewhere in SLTN can be accepted by the author or publisher.

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