Industry sector: Leisure

Night club: Legal matters


What legislation applies to night clubs?

The licensed trade is subject to a significant amount of regulation and it would be a good idea to obtain specialist help to make sure you comply with all the legal requirements. The following is an outline of some of the areas that are likely to be relevant to you. This list is not exhaustive.

Alcohol licensing legislation

The sale of alcohol and the provision of 'regulated entertainment' such as recorded music is regulated by:

  • the Licensing Act in England and Wales
  • the Licensing (Northern Ireland) Order and the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Northern Ireland) Order 1985
  • the Licensing (Scotland) Act in Scotland

If you intend to sell alcohol you'll need to obtain the appropriate licence and comply with the terms of the legislation. You can find out more information about alcohol licensing and the requirements of alcohol legislation throughout the UK from:

  • the Home Office
  • NI Direct
  • the Scottish Government

Gaming legislation

Coin operated amusement machines offering games of chance are subject to gaming legislation. Under the terms of the Gambling Act, in Great Britain you can provide up to two gaming machines in your premises (category C and/or category D machines). You must notify your local licensing authority that you intend to provide a maximum of two machines. If you want to provide more than two machines, you must apply to your local licensing authority for a licensed premises gaming machine permit. The number of machines you are allowed will be specified on the permit.

In Northern Ireland your alcohol licence entitles you 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 can find out more about gaming legislation in Great Britain on the Gambling Commission website. The Department for Communities website has information about gambling laws in Northern Ireland.

Gaming machines (including skill with prizes machines) are subject to Machine Games Duty (MGD) so you'll need to register with HMRC and submit your MGD return and payment at the appropriate time. You can find out more about MGD on the Gov.uk website.

Weights and measures

Legislation covers the quantities in which alcoholic drinks are sold. There's detailed guidance in 'The sale of alcohol in licensed premises' which is available on the Trading Standards Business Companion website.

Bear in mind that it is an offence to stock or sell spirits that do not carry a duty paid tax stamp.

Food safety

All business in the food sector must comply with strict food safety legislation and you must register your business with the local authority environmental health department. Your local environmental health officer will be able to give you advice and guidance as to what you should install in your premises to make sure your operating practices are hygienic and how to comply with the requirements of the Food Safety Act and Food Hygiene Regulations.

Data protection

Any business that uses a CCTV system may need to register with the Information Commissioner's Office. (Having a CCTV system may well be a condition of your alcohol licence.) From May 2018 the General Data Protection Regulation has introduced additional protection for personal data.

Health and safety

You must make sure that you comply with health and safety legislation which applies to all aspects of both staff and customers' health and safety at the venue. Matters of particular importance include:

  • minimising the risks of slips and falls
  • staff welfare
  • making sure gas and electrical installations and appliances are safe and well maintained
  • paying attention to window safety
  • cellar safety measures to minimise the risk of injury during beer and other deliveries
  • carrying out COSHH assessments so that hazardous substances such as beer line cleaners are used and stored safely
  • the provision of adequate first-aid facilities and an appointed person with responsibility for first-aid
  • providing free water and good ventilation

Fire safety

You will need to comply with fire safety regulations. To comply with the law you'll need to carry out a fire risk assessment and put in place fire precaution measures. These could include fire alarm systems and extinguishers as well as clearly signed escape routes. You're responsible for the safety of your guests and your staff. The Department for Communities and Local Government (CLG) has produced several guides to the regulations, including a guide for businesses which attract many customers, such as nightclubs. You can download this and other guides from the Gov.uk website. Information about fire regulations in Northern Ireland is available on the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service website.

Door supervisors

The Security Industry Authority (SIA) was set up to regulate the private security industry. Door supervisors must be trained and must hold a current licence from the SIA. The SIA website contains full details of who needs to be licensed and how to apply for a licence.

Employment legislation

Anyone employing staff must comply with employment legislation. Important pieces of legislation that you must be aware of include:

  • The Employment Rights Act
  • The National Minimum Wage Act
  • The Working Time Regulations

Further information and guidance leaflets on all aspects of health and safety are available on the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and Health and Safety Executive Northern Ireland (HSENI) websites.

The employing people section of the Gov.uk website includes information and guidance on all aspects of employment legislation. Information for businesses in Northern Ireland is available on the NI Business Info website.

Equality and discrimination law

You must not discriminate against anyone because of their age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion, sex or sexual orientation. This applies to every aspect of your business operations, from taking people on to dismissing them. You may need to make reasonable adjustments to your premises and working arrangements so that you don't unfairly discriminate against disabled people.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission and Equality Commission for Northern Ireland websites contain further information on your legal duties.

Workplace smoking ban

Don't forget that smoking is no longer permitted in all public places and you must display appropriate 'No Smoking' signs. The legislation varies slightly in different parts of the UK so contact your local authority for details of how the ban affects you. You can also find out more on the HSE website.