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2017: What Will It Bring?

As I am writing this article my partner Andy Woods is in an Interim Steps Hearing in London for another Summary Review. One thing is for certain: the regulatory impact on the leisure industry does not look to be slowing today as we go forward into 2017, whatever the economic climate and changes to legislation will bring.

There are some key changes which will have an impact on the leisure industry this year, although the full extent and timing of the changes are still up in the air.

Towards the end of 2016, the House of Lords Select Committee on the Licensing Act 2003 called for evidence from stake holders. We are aware that a significant and wide range of interested parties from trade bodies, experts from the licensing world, operators and also the legal profession gave significant amounts of evidence to the Select Committee. The Committee continues to look at the data that it has received, and is due to report its findings by 23 March 2017. It will, of course, be interesting to see what the report contains, and whether Government has any appetite to look to change the overarching statutory framework for licensed premises. The Government is bound to have a huge draw on its time with Brexit this year, and it may well be that, whatever the House of Lords says, the Government may not have the time or inclination to look at wholesale changes, if any are recommended by the select committee.

We could well see revised Section 182 Guidance this year, which is long overdue. There has been considerable tinkering around with the Section 182 Guidance document over a number of years, and this is the longest period since the Act came in force where there have been no changes to the Statutory Guidance.
Many commentators have already looked at the potential impact of the changes to rateable values of premises. The Government’s valuation office issued a new draft rateable value scheme for non-domestic properties in 2016 and we expect to see the final confirmed rates at some stage in 2017. This obviously has an impact on the Licensing Act 2003 fees and the late night levy (if there is one in place). The ALMR have written extensively on how this could have a negative impact on the leisure industry and we await to see what will happen.

We are also waiting to see when the amendments to the Policing and Crime Act will become effective, and how they will impact on key sections of enforcement relating to problem premises.

Last year was particularly busy for new applications and the first week of this year suggests that 2017 will be equally as busy. We have started the year with a significant number of enquiries for new licences for casual dining and late night venues. There does not seem to be any lessening of appetite for new entrants into the market in key commercial centres and we have already received new instructions for London, Leeds, Manchester and Sheffield, which all look exciting.

We are looking ahead to how things may change in the gambling sector. The Department of Culture, Media and Sport is currently reviewing gaming machines and social responsibility requirements. The DCMS is reviewing the number and location of permitted gaming machines in all licensed premises and there is still a call to reduce the suggested impact of fixed odds betting terminals. We will of course report on the DCMS findings as soon as we see them. We are looking forward to dealing with all of the changes and challenges ahead in 2017.

We were exceptionally pleased with the attendance at our Gambling Act and Compliance seminar at the Hippodrome Casino on the 6th of June. As a result, we are going to hold two Licensing Act seminars in late spring, dates to be announced shortly, one of these will be in central London and one will be in Leeds. We are currently finalising the speaker line-up and details of the areas we will cover.
In addition I met with Colin Manchester yesterday and we are delighted that we will be publishing the latest edition of Manchester on Alcohol and Entertainment Licensing Law. The new edition will hopefully be available for sale in the early summer. We are holding this back at this stage to ensure that everything will be up to date and that we will be able to include the imminent changes within the legislation.

Andy and I, on behalf of Woods Whur, would like to wish all of our clients and those who read these articles a successful and safe 2017.