The Scottish Government has recently launched a consultation into one aspect of the Scottish alcohol licensing regime – the granting of occasional licences.
The purpose of the consultation is to address concerns that some applicants may use the occasional licence process to apply for consecutive occasional licences as an alternative to full licences in order to circumvent parts of the licensing regime.
What is an occasional licence?
An occasional licence allows premises which are not fully licenced to hold occasional events, such as wedding receptions or birthday parties, and sell alcohol at such events. The purpose of occasional licences is to allow flexibility in the hospitality and entertainment sectors.
Who can currently apply for an occasional licence?
Anyone from a voluntary organisation, or a holder of a personal licence or a premises licence can apply for an occasional licence.
The Scottish Ministers have the power to make regulations limiting when a Board may issue an occasional licence, but no limits have yet been fixed for the number of occasional licences that premises licence holders or personal licence holders can apply for.
There are already rules in place on the number of occasional licences a voluntary organisation can apply for in 12 month period and is not intended that the current rules will change.
Occasional licence fees
The consultation also asks whether the fee for an occasional licence should be raised from £10 and if so if the new fee should be £50, £75 or £100. The Scottish Government has identified that the current £10 fee does not cover the administrative costs of dealing with the application. The licencing regime operates on a cost recovery basis, with Board’s costs being covered, in part, by licence fees.
The consultation closes mid-July and so it is expected the responses should be available at the start of August.
The Scottish Government is also consulting on draft revised guidance for alcohol Licencing Boards. Guidance was issued just after the Licencing (Scotland) Act 2005 came into force, but has not been updated to reflect the various changes to the legislative framework which have come into force since 2005. The focus of the guidance is on providing further explanation of the legislation, in particular complex areas such as the interplay between relevant legislation (the Alcohol etc Act 2010, the Criminal Justice and Licencing (Scotland) Act 2010, the Alcohol (Minimum Pricing) (Scotland) Act 2012 and the Air Weapons and Licencing (Scotland) Act 2015). The purpose of the consultation is to seek views on the clarity of the revised guidance.
The draft revised guidance has been prepared by a working group comprising officials from the Scottish Government together with members of the Council of the Scottish Region of the Institute of Licensing and others, such as Alcohol Focus Scotland and other health professionals. Although the guidance is produced by the Scottish Government for Licencing Boards it is acknowledged that other bodies also find it useful, such as local authorities, Police Scotland, Local Licensing Forums, Licensing Standards Officers and the licensed trade and their representatives. The intention is that the revised draft guidance will provide clarity on the existing legislative framework.
Once responses to the consultation have been considered, the draft revised guidance may be amended again before it is laid before the Scottish Parliament to approve. Only after approval will it be issued to Licencing Boards.