Changes to licensing regulations include good news for petrol stations, according to solicitors Winckworth Sherwood.
The biggest change is the abolition of the requirement to renew personal licences, with effect from April 1. This is a result of the Deregulation Act 2015, which has just been given Royal Assent, and Winckworth Sherwood partner Robert Botkai said: “This legislation is somewhat overdue in that those who had personal licences granted between February and April 2005 will have needed to apply to renew their licences. However, it is better late than never.”
Shortly after the Act passed into law the Home Office also issued new guidance to licensing authorities, some of which specifically refers to “garages” applying for an alcohol licence.
Botkai explained that previous guidance had been interpreted as meaning if a premises were used primarily as a garage then it would not be eligible to seek an alcohol licence.
He said: “We have argued for some years that these paragraphs are unlawful as they create a new and separate test to secure a premises licence for a petrol station. The guidance supersedes the actual requirements set out in the Licensing Act 2003.
“We have been in direct contact with the Home Office to lobby for a change in the guidance to reflect what in our opinion, is the law. We have had the opportunity to meet with and engage with the Home Office and we are delighted that the relevant officials have agreed with our view and the guidance has been revised.
“We have already spoken to the Home Office who have confirmed that the intention of this paragraph is that the decision on primary use follows the grant of the licence and is not part of the application process. We are hoping to get some form of written confirmation of this clarification from the Home Office. We expect that the revisions contained in the New Guidance will put an end to licensing officers and licensing committees asking to see primary use data as part of an application process.
“However, we must stress that it is incumbent on all operators of petrol stations to monitor their primary use on a regular basis. Should a store be primarily used as a garage then any alcohol sales from that store would be unlawful. The licence holder could be liable to prosecution or face a review of its licence.”