5 am on 1 September 2009 sees the introduction of all the provisions of the Licensing (Scotland) Act 2005. Licensing Law as the Scottish public currently knows it will cease at that time when the new Licensing Legislation comes into effect. By that date, every licensed premise in Scotland will require to hold a premises licence. If there is not one in existence, then they cannot sell or supply alcohol. Some 20% of Scottish licensed premises have not applied for a premises licence and cannot trade after the 1 September. Many are off sales and small operations, but some larger premises have failed to lodge applications in time which potentially is disastrous to their business. A similar prohibition will also apply if, by that date, the premises do not have a premises manager approved by the local Licensing Board. That person must have passed a training exam, obtained a personal licence from the Licensing Board and applied to be the premises manager. Much concern has been voiced to Scottish Government about the number of premises whose management have not sat the necessary training course or obtained the personal licence. Time for them is very much running out. Not only are training courses virtually booked up to the September deadline but also many local authorities have advised that because of pressures of work, they may not have time to process late applications for these personal licences. This again potentially prevents the sale of alcohol. Scottish Government have been asked for some slippage to allow premises to continue to trade after the deadline but have so far refused.
1st September also heralds the end of happy hours and irresponsible drink promotions which is set to have a significant effect on the drinking habits of the public. As from 1 September where the price at which alcohol is sold is varied, then that variation must stay in effect for a period of 72 hours. In the intervening period, no variations are permitted which means that selling drink at different prices on the same day is now outlawed. The Act also prevents irresponsible drink promotions which will also put an end to many of the promotions currently available, including 2 for 1, unlimited amounts of alcohol for a fixed price and generally, any drinks promotion activity which promotes the buying or consumption of alcohol on the premises. This will come as a shock to the vast majority of patrons who are unaware of the significant changes which have been introduced to conform with the five licensing objectives, namely (a) preventing crime and disorder, (b) securing public safety, (c) preventing public nuisance, (d) protecting and improving public health and (e) protecting children from harm. Many involved in the licensed trade fear that this will just encourage the trend to “front load” which means the public will consume alcohol in their homes before setting out “for town”. That habit, in itself, will potentially be affected by the minimum pricing proposals to be introduced by Scottish Government.
This, coupled with the introduction of the smoking ban (now regarded as a great success), sees a complete sea change in Government’s approach to the sale and supply of alcohol. In time, who says it will not prove to be a success!
The first few months of the new licensing regime are certain to prove interesting and very challenging to all concerned, whether it be licensees, Licensing Boards, police officials and not least, licensing lawyers.