Industry sector: Leisure

Night club: Licences

Alcohol 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.

From October 2012, the licensing position on providing live music has changed. Venues no longer need to be licensed to provide amplified live and recorded 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 or recorded music within these hours but to more than the maximum permitted number of 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 (the same premises can have a maximum of 12 temporary event notices per year). The website contains more information about alcohol, regulated entertainment and late night refreshment licensing. A similar regime of personal and premises licences is in operation in Scotland as well. There is detailed information for licensees on the Scottish Government website.

In England and Wales, new mandatory licensing conditions were introduced in 2014. These replaced the conditions introduced in 2010 and mean that you:

  • must not sell alcohol below the cost of duty plus VAT
  • must not arrange irresponsible promotions
  • must provide free drinking water
  • must adopt an age verification policy
  • must provide smaller measures

Similarly, since 2011 mandatory licence conditions in Scotland require alcohol retailers to operate a Challenge 25 policy.

In Northern Ireland, alcohol licences are granted by the county court. New alcohol licences are not currently granted for night clubs in Northern Ireland, 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. As well as an alcohol licence, you'll also need an entertainment licence from your local authority.

Door supervisors

The government 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 a licence, an applicant must pass an identity check and a criminal records check and must have gained a recognised door supervisor qualification. Visit the SIA website for further information.

To curb 'pre-loading' (drinking at home before going out for the evening) some night clubs have started to ask their door supervisors to breathalyse and turn away anyone over their limit (usually set somewhere between 80 and 100). As well as avoiding conflict, the policy is also seen as a way of protecting the club's premises licence.

Other licences

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

  • a licence for holding indoor sports events. Under the Licensing Act, indoor sports are classed as 'regulated entertainment' for which a licence may be required - most indoor sports events held between 8am and 11pm with an audience of up to 1,000 don't need a licence but events held outside of these times or to an audience greater than 1,000 always do
  • 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, although you will have to notify your local authority that you intend to make gaming machines available for use. 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're also likely to have to register for Machine Games Duty with HMRC
  • a Music Licence from PPL PRS Ltd

If you use CCTV you may need to register with the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO). (Having a CCTV system is likely to be a condition of your alcohol licence.) From May 2018 the General Data Protection Regulation has introduced additional protection for personal data.

In addition, if you plan to offer any catering, you must register with your local authority environmental health department.