Licence to Enjoy

Some of the many things seemingly put in place to trip up event organisers on their quest to create their ultimate event, are licensing laws and regulations. On the face of it, holding an event with alcohol sales and entertainment is simply matter of ensuring that the serving of alcohol, or late night  music and dancing, are offered with the appropriate licences in place.Our whole 230 acre site is licensed, meaning that the bars and event spaces we have are licensed to serve alcohol and stage entertainments, just like many other clubs and bars.

The complexity begins when festivals and outdoor events include several places to buy alcohol, multiple stages with amplification, dance floors and the like, and even off-sales of alcohol for consumption in the camping area or elsewhere within the main perimeter. Depending on the circumstances, each one of these may require a temporary licence, notification under our licence, or simply permission from the local authority to operate at all, or just to operate beyond a certain time.

As with everything, the key to success is planning. We can ensure that every bar, live music venue and dancefloor complies with the relevant licensing laws and regulations. The truth is that these laws and regulations were never designed to accommodate large, open-air venues with multiple indoor and outdoor outlets, like the Arena.

I even wrote a dissertation on this very subject for my masters degree a decade ago! Licensing laws have come about over a long period of time, with over a century's worth of amendments and additions making it a complex field of regulation. And because they are, in large part, administered by local authorities, there are geographical variations in how they are interpreted and enforced too.

The licensing act 2003 changed licensing across venues radically merging entertainment and alcohol which created the difficulties with venues of our size (it is easy for a clubs and bars, but less so for large multi-use venues). Arguably at the time this was not adequately considered by government, and became a talking point in the events industry. Essentially we have to make the act fit what we do and local authorities, after initially perhaps being over-zealous in certain areas, have learned how to ‘interpret’ the act to best fit the venue they are working in with.

Our site-wide licence covers most eventualities, but we still need to notify our local authority about events where, when and how alcohol will be served, in addition to entertainment, music and dancing, the expected numbers of people and so on. Many of the regulations pertaining to alcohol and entertainment require licensing apply when audiences/guests exceed a certain number of people, the event will continue past a certain time (usually 11pm), whether any other activities (like boxing or wrestling) will form part of the event.

Without local authorities working with us, we as event managers and venue managers could never make the act fit with what we do. In the Peterborough area we're very fortunate to have a local authority that understands that it need to work with us on the interpretation of the act. As a result, our premises license remains pretty much unchanged with only a few small adjustments.

Providing we have a complete picture of the event from our clients, we can guarantee that the event meets all licensing requirements, including having the required Designated Premises Supervisor with a personal licence on-site, and providing the detailed layout plans to the local authority and local interest groups (Police, Safety Advisory Groups etc.) In a festival context, we can ensure that the relevant regulations for “off-sales” of alcohol are also met.

Whilst the licensing of alcohol and entertainments is within our remit, and within my personal expertise, the licensing for playing copyright music, video and film, falls firmly within the client’s responsibility – so we encourage all our clients to ensure they are covered by appropriate licences and permissions via PRS, PPL and/or one of the film licensing agencies (BFI, MPLC, or individual distributors), if needed.