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16 September 2014

Pubs of Ulster at Stormont Part 3: Increasing the Number of Late Licenses for Clubs

29/11/2010

Colin Neill, Chief Executive of Pubs of Ulster outlined to the Social Development committee, chaired by Simon Hamilton, that the organisation strongly disagrees with the provision of additional late licenses per year for registered clubs.

The Licensing and Registration of Clubs (Amendment) Bill is proposing to raise the number of late licenses from 52 per year to 120 per year. Mr Neill delivered a comprehensive overview of Pubs of Ulster’s position in regard to this issue.

Mr Neill explained to the Committee that one of the major issues to come from the Licensing and Registration of Clubs (Amendment) Bill is the provision of 120 late licences for registered clubs, the argument being that the pub industry has one for every night of the year. In reality, pubs have about 120, because there is no need for a late licence on a Monday or Tuesday night; workers would be there on their own. Given how the industry is at the moment, Mr Neill explained that workers are there on their own even on Friday nights, so there is not a big need for late licences. Mr Neill pointed out that Pubs of Ulster are not against the clubs getting something, but there must be a compromise position. Like pubs, the clubs trade in a difficult environment, and Pubs of Ulster support some movement for them, but we feel that it would be excessive to go to 120 late nights per year. A number of members of the Committee were in agreement.

Mr Neill outlined that clubs and the licensed trade do share a number of common challenges within the current trading environment including reduced margins, increased overheads and costs in adapting to regulation changes, including the smoking ban. However each are very different entities, with very different cost bases. For example:

• Pubs pay corporation tax 21% - 28%; clubs don’t.

• Pubs pay rates based on turnover (c30% higher) – clubs don’t.

• Pubs pay capital gains tax – sports clubs don’t.

• Pubs pay higher wage costs.

• Pubs pay higher Security Industry Authority licensing costs.

• Pubs pay higher Sky costs – ranging from £500 to £2,000 per month.

• Pubs have smaller jackpot gaming machines which are less profitable.

Mr Neill also explained that controls over additional hours for registered clubs are much less than that of pubs. The current situation is outlined below.

Pubs

Normal permitted hours

• Weekdays 11.30pm to 11pm

• Sunday 12.30pm to 10pm

Additional hours – Subject to Court, Local Council & PSNI approval

• Weekdays 11pm to 1am

• Sunday 10pm to 12am

Additional hours for pubs are only available under article 44 and require a court order to which the PSNI and Local Councils have the right to object. The Court must satisfy itself that additional hours order would be proper.

Also, an article 44 requires that a substantial table meal is served or an Entertainment licence is in force. Entertainment licences are issued by Local Councils which have the power to refuse on a set conditions within the licence.

Clubs

Normal permitted hours

• Weekdays 11.30pm to 11pm

• Sunday 12.30pm to 10pm

Additional Hours – only requires PSNI approval

• Weekdays 11pm to 1am

• Sunday 10pm to 12am

Additional hours for clubs are not obtained under a Court Order and Local Councils do not have to be notified. They are simply obtained by gaining a special occasion authorisation from the PSNI.

Also there is no requirement that any food is served or that an Entertainment licence is in force.

The only restriction is they are currently limited to a maximum of 52 per year. New legislation will allow an increase in this without any additional controls.

Consequences

a. The Court has no role or control.

b. The local council is not notified, therefore local residents are not engaged in the decision making process.

c. There is no requirement for a meal or Entertainment licence, therefore this extra control element is missing. The requirement for an Entertainment licence (and the requirement for it to be renewed each year) as a condition precedent on late licences allows local residents, Councils and the PSNI to be involved in the monitoring process. Recent action against licensed premises by Belfast City Council demonstrates the effectiveness of this control element.

d. These conditions were undoubtedly created to maintain that additional permitted hours would only be for the ancillary sale of intoxicating liquor and not as an end in itself. Any increase in late hours for registered clubs would be contrary to this intention.

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