Industry sector: Leisure

Night club: Getting a licence

Under the terms of current licensing legislation, anyone wanting to run a night club in England, Wales and Scotland is required to apply for two licences - a premises licence and a personal licence.

Premises licence

A premises licence is a single licence that covers all aspects of how a night club operates including the supply of alcohol, regulated entertainment and late night refreshment (although in some cases late night refreshment may be exempt from the licensing requirement). Premises licences are issued by local licensing authorities and require applicants to demonstrate how they will promote the four Licensing Act objectives of preventing crime and disorder, ensuring public safety, preventing public nuisance and protecting children from harm. Each local authority has standard conditions to ensure these objectives are met. These may cover matters such as:

  • fire safety, including escape signage and escape routes, alarms and fire fighting equipment
  • general safety, including overcrowding, ventilation, first-aid measures and so on
  • controlling noise and disturbance
  • arrangements for door security
  • emergency lighting conditions

Applicants also have to:

  • be over 18 years of age
  • set out their proposed opening hours
  • describe their premises (including safety features) and include a plan of their premises
  • say what activities their premises will be used for, for example dancing, live music
  • advertise their application

Personal licences

A personal licence is required as well as a premises licence. A personal licence allows individuals to supply or authorise the supply of alcohol under a premises licence. Under the Act all premises must have an identified personal licence holder. Applicants for a personal licence must hold an accredited qualification from an approved training provider to ensure that they are aware of licensing requirements and their wider social responsibilities. Applicants also need a basic criminal records check.

The website has more information on the Licensing Act and provides guidance for applicants in England and Wales. The Scottish Government website has similar guidance for applicants in Scotland.

Licensing in Northern Ireland

In Northern Ireland a different system of licensing operates. There are a set number of licences and a new business would have to buy one of the existing licences from a club or pub that is prepared to give up its licence. The old licence is returned in order for an application for a new licence to be made to the local court. As well as an alcohol licence, you'll also need an entertainment licence in Northern Ireland.

Local courts can provide information about licensing procedures and applications in Northern Ireland. Information is also available on the NI Direct website.

Contact your local authority for further information on licensing in your area.