Hospitality is a core industry in Jersey and there are many hotels, bars, restaurants and clubs, each of which operate from business premises. Each business is likely to have the benefit of a liquor licence, which authorises the sale and consumption on those premises of alcohol. The Licensing (Jersey) Law 1974 makes various provisions as to what can and cannot be done with respect to premises that are subject to a liquor licence, the impact of which can be commercially very significant to the business operator.

Upon applying for a new liquor licence, various reports are undertaken which examine the appropriateness of a licence being granted with respect to those premises. This includes reports from i) the Chief Fire Officer as to whether the premises meet current fire standards; ii) the Chief Architect of the States as to the structural suitability of the premises, taking account matters such as sound insulation, proximity to residential property and structural integrity of the premises; and iii) the Chief Public Health Inspector as to whether the premises meet current Environmental Health standards. If the premises are found to be lacking to any material extent, it would be difficult to convince the Licensing Assembly that the premises are suitable to be licensed. It is therefore important to engage with these bodies early on in order to: i) ascertain what works will be necessary to bring the premises up to the required standard; ii) establish what the cost of doing this will be; and iii) agree a programme of works to be completed by the date that the Licensing Assembly hear the application.

If the necessary works cannot be completed by the date of the Licensing Assembly, in the case of minor works, the assembly may agree that the licence will take effect but with the applicant giving an undertaking that the works will be completed within an agreed timescale and an appropriate certificate of completion being lodged with the Judicial Greffe. If there are significant works outstanding, the assembly may decide that the licence should not take effect until an architect or project manager's confirmation that the works are completed is either lodged at the Judicial Greffe or presented to the Royal Court.

If a new licence is being applied for and works of construction or adaptation to the premises are proposed, it may be appropriate to apply for a provisional liquor licence. Plans that have been approved by the Planning Department together with copy planning and building bye-laws permits (if such approvals are required) together with the reports mentioned above should be lodged and the matter will be considered by the Licensing Assembly and if deemed appropriate, a provisional licence will be granted. Upon completion of the works, the applicant will present a certificate of the architect or project manager confirming that the works have been completed and will request that the Royal Court confirms the licence, whereupon it shall take effect and the applicant will, from that date, be entitled to sell alcohol.

If premises are already subject to a liquor licence, no structural alterations or alterations to the layout of those premises which affect any room in which alcohol is sold or any public area in those premises may be made without the prior consent of the Licensing Assembly. In the case of relatively minor alterations, that is obtained by way of a written application to the Royal Court in which the plans are lodged together with copy planning and building bye-laws consents (if required) and a written decision as to whether the works may commence or not is then issued. If the works are significant, it may be that a formal application to the Licensing Assembly is appropriate. In both instances, no alteration works may be commenced at the premises until the appropriate approval is granted.

So, whilst occupiers of licensed premises are likely to be familiar with the requirement to abide by the terms of their lease or the title to their property, the impact of the Licensing Law should also be borne in mind as it can have a material effect on what can or cannot be done at licensed premises or what must be done with respect to premises which are the subject of a new application.

As originally appeared in Business Brief – Issue 286, October 2012