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Problems at Licensed Premises – Do we always need to jump to a review / summary review?

I was asked to advise in a case this week which brought up a much-discussed topic. Is there always a need to jump to formal proceedings when problems occur at a premises or can voluntary action by the operator save a huge amount of time and money?

The main issue was the violent disorder that had taken place at a pub in London where there had been issues on football match days. The specific facts of the particular incident were relayed to me and I was asked to advise whether I thought there was sufficient evidence to bring about a summary review of the premises licence or whether it should be a standard review.

When assessing the track record of the premises and the level of the issues which had brought about the concern, I advised that I did not think a summary review was an appropriate course of action. No one had been arrested and charged as a result of the public disorder and, whilst the flash point had happened within the public house, the main disorder had happened away from the premises. In my view, and this was reflected in my advice, there were insufficient grounds to suggest that the premises were “associated with serious crime or disorder”.

There was clearly evidence of live management issues at the premises and I advised in the circumstances that a standard review would be appropriate to deal with those issues, if the operator was not prepared to make changes voluntarily.

A meeting took place between the relevant police licensing department and the operator and as a result of that meeting, the operator agreed to make a minor variation to the premises licence to change management style and have this recorded on the licence with additional conditions. This was clearly targeted at the issues which had brought about the police concerns in the first place.

In the circumstances the police accepted that there was no need therefore to go to formal review proceedings and the operator moved to lodging the minor variation application immediately and volunteered to make changes prior to those new conditions being endorsed on their licence.

What a fantastically enlightened way of dealing with issues. This has removed the need for detailed and expensive proceedings before the licensing authority which would probably have achieved exactly the same result, but some six weeks further down the line.

It just goes to show that with a positive will on both sides there are real opportunities to solving these issues without the knee-jerk decision to go direct to formal proceedings.

The sum total of work involved for all parties was half a day rather than all of the work and expense that would have been needed to bring about formal review proceedings.

Hopefully this enlightened approach taken by the police and a responsible operator in these circumstances can ripple around to other areas where voluntary interaction can be used to save significant man power and cost.