Government Issues Consultation On How To Save The Off-sales Benefit Of The Business And Planning Act 2020

The Business and Planning Act 2020 streamlined alcohol sales for on-sales licensed premises by allowing automatic off-sales in licensed pavement areas. A public consultation is considering making these provisions permanent or amending the Licensing Act 2003 to simplify the process.
UK Corporate/Commercial Law
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During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Business and Planning Act 2020 ('2020 Act') helped businesses with on-sales only licences to automatically sell alcohol to be consumed in licensed pavement areas.

The 2020 Act did this in two ways. Firstly, it streamlined the process for obtaining a pavement licence and capped application fees. Secondly, it enabled on-sales premises licence holders to automatically do off-sales without needing to amend their licence.

In case you are unfamiliar with this terminology, 'on-sales' licences allow a premises to sell alcohol that can only be consumed on the premises. Whereas 'off-sales' licences allow premises to sell alcohol that can only be consumed off the premises or in a separately licensed pavement area.

We recently updated you on the Levelling Up and Regeneration Act 2023 coming into effect, which made permanent the provisions of the 2020 Act relating to pavement licensing. However, the off-sales element to the 2020 Act is due to lapse in March 2025 and its future is yet to be determined.

With this deadline in mind, the Government has now issued a public consultation on how to make it easier to sell alcohol to be consumed in a licensed pavement area.

The consultation proposes three options including:

  1. Making permanent the provision under the 2020 Act, whereby any on-sales licence will automatically cover off-sales as well;
  2. Amending the Licensing Act 2003 to extend the definition of on-sales so that it includes consumption in a licensed pavement area; or,
  3. Amending the Licensing Act 2003 to permit on-sales only premises licence holders the right to make off-sales to any area for which there is a pavement licence. As with option 2, this would mean that on-sales only licence holders would be able to automatically sell alcohol for consumption in an adjacent licensed pavement area without any need for a licence variation. If this option is taken forward, the Government proposes it would be introduced by means of a Legislative Reform Order.

The decision of this consultation could have a great impact on both existing premises licence holders and new licence applicants.

Originally published 21st May 2024

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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