Let Me Entertain You – A Review of the Entertainment Licensing System

July 10, 2015

In May 2015 the Environment Minister Mark H Durkan announced a public consultation to review the entertainment licensing regime in Northern Ireland. The current regime has been in place since 1985 and in July 2014 the Minister launched a review of the regime and invited representatives from the entertainment industry, Councils, the PSNI and the Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service (NIFRS) to make recommendations on how the regime could be changed or improved. Following on from this review the Entertainment Licensing Review Group has produced a consultation document which sets out a series of proposed amendments to the entertainment licensing regime.

Entertainment licences are required by organisers of live entertainment indoors or to stage open air events on private land. They are also required for circuses or any entertainment which consists of any public contest including pool, boxing and darts. They are granted by the local Council and their purpose is to ensure the safety of the individuals attending the entertainment and to avoid the entertainment causing undue disturbance to people in the surrounding area. The licensing regime regulates the type of entertainment for which a licence is required, the duration of the licence granted and the penalties for breach of the regime.

The Entertainment Licensing Review Group proposed 36 recommendations the most notable of which include:-

• Where currently there is a dual licensing system where there is both indoor and outdoor entertainment, a single licence system for these type of events should be introduced to reduce administrative and cost burden on the Applicant and the Council;

• An entertainment licence should be valid and remain in place until surrendered by the licence holder or revoked by the Council;

• If alterations are to be made to premises the Council should be consulted in advance of the works so that the modifications can be agreed prior to work commencing;

• A temporary licence should be introduced which would allow smaller groups, businesses or community groups to have a licence for a one off event. The licence would be valid for one event in a 12 month period from the date the licence is granted. This would be restricted to events which last no more than 3 consecutive days, has an attendance of no more than 499 people and runs only between 9.00am and 11.00pm;

• Where regulated entertainment is provided at a place which has an alcohol licence, the entertainment licence should be valid only until the last permitted time for consumption of alcohol on the premises;

• Councils should have the power to vary a licence at any time and the licence holder, PSNI and NIFRS must be notified and given the opportunity to be heard by the Council. Interested parties may make a representation to the Council about a licence at any time throughout the duration of the licence and licence holder must be notified and given the opportunity to be heard by the Council.

These are a few of the recommended changes which it is hoped will modernise the entertainment licensing system. A particularly notable recommended change is to bring the hours during which entertainment may be provided into line with the hours during which sale of alcohol are permitted. This is intended to reduce the instances where alcohol is sold beyond permitted hours as currently an entertainment licence can extend to 3am whereas sales of alcohol must cease at 1am at the latest.

The responses to the consultation are not yet published and a copy of the report by the Entertainment Licensing Review Group can be found here:

http://www.doeni.gov.uk/entertainment_licensing_review_-_consultation_document.pdf

For further information on entertainment licensing or liquor licensing related queries please contact Louise Coll (DD: 90271311) or a member of the Licensing team at Cleaver Fulton Rankin.

Please note: The content of this article is for information purposes only and further advice should be sought from a professional advisor before any action is taken.