Licensing for alcohol

The Licensing (Scotland) Act 2005 restricts permission to sell alcohol only in premises that are licensed to do so.  

It also sets out:-

  • training requirements for people serving alcohol

  • requirements for stewarding at events serving alcohol

There are three types of alcohol license:-

  • Premises License

  • Occasional License

  • Personal License

Which license a community group will need, will depend on the nature of the group’s activities and services, and how frequent the group is going to be serving alcohol.

Premises Licenses

If you are a village hall, which has regular events such as dances with a bar selling alcohol then you may want to consider a Premises License. A Premises License authorises the sale of alcohol on that particular premises (this could be indoor or outdoor but the license will only be given in accordance with a specified operating plan and layout plan). 

The operating plan will set out the hours during which the alcohol can be served and the agreed activities which will take place. It will also state whether or not children will be allowed on the premises. These conditions will be linked to a layout plan which will show the physical layout of the premises and capacity.

If your community group applies for a Premises License you will need:-

  • a designated Premises Manager. The Premises Manager must hold a Personal License and he/she must authorise (specifically or generally) every sale of alcohol on the premises

  • every person selling or serving alcohol must have a minimum of two hours training (covering required topics). This training can be delivered by the Premises Manager or another Personal License holder

  • if your community group is serving alcohol and the premises is not covered by a Permises License then you will require an Occasional License. Remember that ‘premises’ here does not specifically refer to just ‘buildings’. It can also be an outdoor venue such as a field – and even a car or vehicle

Occasional Licenses

If your community group or organisation only serves alcohol at occasional events, such as the annual gala day or even one off special fundraisers, you are probably better applying for an Occasional License each time. Your group will then need to apply for an Occasional License for each event where alcohol is being sold. This includes fundraising events such as dances and gala days. An Occasional License may also be required for events where you offer an alcoholic drink as part of the admission price such as ‘cheese and wine’ evenings.

Effectively, holding an Occasional License temporarily grants permission for your community group to use the venue of your event as a ‘licensed premises’ to serve alcohol – for the specified duration of that event only. Again, the ‘licensed premises’ does not have to be a building – it can be an indoor venue such as a village hall but it can also be an outside venue such as a street or field where you may be holding a gala or fayre.  

An Occasional License is not required for events that are free and people are asked to ‘bring a bottle’.

Applying for an Occasional License

An application for an Occasional License should be made by either a nominated representative from your group’s committee or a Personal License holder within the group. Any application will take time to process, so make sure that you submit it with plenty of time to spare before your event takes place – at least six weeks ahead if you can. You also need to be aware that there is a restriction on the number of times per year that your group can be awarded an Occasional License, and that each license is only valid for a set number of days.

For more information about the application process in your own area, contact your local authority.

Personal Licenses

Depending on the frequency that your community group wants permission to sell alcohol, you may want to consider someone within the group becoming a Personal License holder. Anyone over the age of 18 who holds a relevant qualification can apply for a Personal License. You will still need either a Premises License or an Occasional License for the venue.

Having a Personal License holder:-

  • will send a clear message of your group’s commitment to responsible serving of alcohol

  • enable them to cascade training to any of your volunteers serving alcohol

  • mean that they can be nominated as a Premises Manager

  • mean that they can submit on behalf of your group any applications for Occasional Licenses

The downside of relying on one person holding a Personal License would be that if they leave your group you will no longer benefit from the above. This could be a problem if your group has a Premises License and the Personal License holder is also the Premises Manager.

Legal Duties relating to the sale of alcohol

Holding any alcohol license brings specific legal duties relating to who can be served.

Regulations on the sale and consumption of alcohol in licensed premises apply to:-

  • young people under the age of 18, who must not consume, buy or attempt to buy alcohol

  • licensees, who must not sell alcohol nor allow others to sell alcohol to young people under 18, nor allow them to consume alcohol in a bar

  • any person who knowingly buys or attempts to buy alcohol for anyone under the age of 18

Restrictions on serving people who are drunk

Alcohol legislation also makes it an offence for:-

  • license-holders, their employees, employers and agents to be in the premises whilst drunk

  • any person to be in the premises whilst drunk and incapable of taking care of him or herself, unless under the protection of a suitable person

  • licensees to sell or supply alcohol to a person who is drunk

  • any person to procure alcohol for consumption by a drunken person, or to aid a drunken person in obtaining alcohol on the premises

  • any person to behave whilst drunk in a riotous or disorderly manner, or use obscene or indecent language to the annoyance of any person

  • licensees to permit any breach of the peace, drunkenness or riotous or disorderly conduct in the premises

Other duties

It is illegal for any person who occupies or keeps any licensed premises to knowingly allow:-

  • the possession of, misuse of or dealing in classified drugs on the premises

  • thieves or reputed thieves, prostitutes or convicted drugs offenders to meet, assemble or remain in the premises

  • goods which they have reasonable grounds for believing to be stolen to be deposited in the premises

Further regulations cover refusal to leave licensed premises.  It is an offence for any person who is being riotous, quarrelsome or disorderly, to refuse or neglect to leave the premises on being requested to do so by the occupier, manager or agent, or by the police. Similarly, any person who refuses to leave at the conclusion of the permitted hours of the licensed event is committing an offence, and the police may assist in expelling people in such cases.