Industry sector:

Public house: Licences


To operate as a pub providing a typical range of products and services there are a number of licences you will have to obtain.

Alcohol and entertainment licensing

In England and Wales, the Licensing Act regulates the sale of alcohol, the provision of regulated entertainment and the supply of hot food between the hours of 11pm and 5am. A premises licence is required for any premises where these activities will take place (although in some cases late night refreshment may be exempt from the licensing requirement), and a personal licence is required by anyone who wants to sell alcohol from premises which have a premises licence.

Venues do not need to be licensed to provide amplified live music between 8am and 11pm as long as the audience is no more than 500 people. The provision of unamplified music between 8am and 11pm no longer needs a licence at all, regardless of audience size. For providing all live music outside these hours, or amplified live music (including DJ sets) within these hours but to more than 500 people, either your alcohol licence will need to include the performance of live music as a licensable activity or you'll need to get a temporary event notice every time you put on a live music event (as a personal licence holder you can have up to 50 a year). The Gov.uk website includes more information about alcohol, regulated entertainment and late night refreshment licensing.

In England and Wales, mandatory licensing conditions ban irresponsible drinks promotions and require alcohol retailers to put in place an age verification policy.

A similar regime of personal and premises licences and licensing conditions is in operation in Scotland as well. There is comprehensive information for licensees on the Scottish Government website.

In Northern Ireland, alcohol licences are granted by the county court. There is a set number of pub licences in Northern Ireland and new licences are not currently granted for pubs. So you'll usually need to find someone who's giving up or selling their licence. You can read more about alcohol licensing in Northern Ireland on the NI Direct website.

Alcohol wholesaler registration scheme (AWRS)

If you plan to sell alcoholic drinks to other businesses on anything other than an 'incidental' basis (sales that you don't solicit, or that you are not aware are trade sales) you will need to register with HMRC as an alcohol wholesaler. HMRC will make checks to ensure that you're a 'fit and proper' person to operate as an alcohol wholesaler - for example that you have never been involved in illicit trading of smuggled goods. You'll need to apply online for registration at least 45 days before you start trading. You can find out more on the Gov.uk website.

Door supervisors

The government has set up the Security Industry Authority (SIA) to regulate the security industry throughout the UK. Door supervisors can only work legally if they are licensed by the SIA. To obtain the licence, an applicant has to pass an identity check and a criminal records check and must have gained a recognised door supervisor qualification. Check out the SIA website for further information.

Food premises

If you plan to offer any catering you must register as a food business with your local authority environmental health department 28 days before you start your food operations.

Gaming machines

Depending on the number of gaming machines you have, you may need a gaming machine permit from your local licensing authority. In Great Britain, your alcohol licence automatically entitles you to have two Category C or Category D machines. If you want to offer more than that number, you need a gaming machine permit. In Northern Ireland, your alcohol licence entitles to a certain number of gaming machines. There's no set maximum, but the licensing authority will decide how many you can have when you apply for your licence.

You'll need to register with HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) if you have machines on which Machine Games Duty (MGD) is payable. The Gov.uk website sets out the position.

Other licences

You may also need a number of other licences, including:

  • a Music Licence from PPL PRS Ltd. An MPLC licence if you plan to screen films or TV shows
  • a television licence to cover televisions in the bar areas and also in rooms that you let out
  • registration with the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) if you use a CCTV system