Renewing your liquor licence: deadline fast approaching

The deadline for the renewal of Liquor Licences in Northern Ireland is approaching once again and now is the time to get your affairs in order.  The 5-yearly cycle ends in September 2017 by which point all current Liquor Licences ought to have been through the Magistrate’s Court renewals procedure.

The renewal application itself is relatively straightforward and must be prepared and served on the Courts and the other statutory bodies an absolute minimum of 3 weeks in advance of 1st September 2017, and therefore we would strongly recommend that you begin to put together the various proofs including the original liquor licence and NITB certificate if appropriate. Taking early advice is extremely helpful, particularly if there are any missing documents or irregularities with the Licence which need to be addressed.

In particular, premises which have carried out alterations since the last renewal in 2012 may have to regularise their licence by making a consent to alterations application before the renewal date. With courts closing over the summer months, time is running out to make such an application.

Generally, a solicitor will be able to make the renewal application by submitting the requisite paperwork and you will not have to attend court. However, where there are complications or issues with the licence then a court attendance may be necessary. Most problems or issues that arise can be addressed and dealt with if early advice is sought.

Renewals during a Protection Order

If you have recently obtained a protection order (usually granted for a 6 month period) then you will have to apply for the transfer of the licence before the expiration of that protection order. However, Article 23 of the Licensing (NI) Order 1996 permits the concurrent transfer and renewal to be made at the same time during the term of a protection order. This would be advantageous to a licensee requiring a transfer at this time as in simple terms, it would kill two birds with one stone, and you would not need to make any further renewal application before September. It might also save you some solicitor’s costs.

Failure to Renew and “Out of Time” Renewals

Failure to renew a Liquor Licence by the statutory deadline in September is likely to mean that the licence is dead, and that the licence holder is no longer permitted to sell alcohol to the public, the effect of which would be terminal for many businesses in the sector.  However, the legislation does provide a mechanism for renewal outside the time limit, provided the application is made no later than 12 months from the date on which the licence expires.  The Court will only renew a licence in these circumstances if it is satisfied that there is good reason for the failure to renew at the proper time – simple forgetfulness is unlikely to persuade the Court so the advice is renew now and don’t take the risk!

O’Reilly Stewart Solicitors can guide you through the renewal process and offer an extremely competitive fee structure. Contact our Licensing Department on 028 90 321 000 to discuss.