What licences do you need?
The sale of alcohol in the UK is governed by the Licensing Act 2003 and this specifies two types of licence needed to legally sell alcohol – a personal licence and a premises licence.
A personal licence gives you as an individual the legal right to sell alcohol and also allows you to authorise others to sell alcohol on your behalf.
A premises licence authorises the sale of alcohol at a specific place, in this case the marquee hosting your event.
To hold a personal licence you must be over the age of 18 and you will need an accredited licensing qualification such as the BII level II examination certificate. Once you have this you can apply to your local licensing authority – usually your local district or county council. You can use the government’s local council finder to identify your local authority.
Before issuing you with a personal licence, your local licensing authority will want to know the details of any relevant criminal convictions which may affect their decision. Assuming they issue you with a licence, you will then take on the role of Designated Premises Supervisor (DPS) for your event and you will be personally legally responsible for all alcohol sold.
If you are running an event that is due to last less than 96 hours and accommodate fewer than 500 people, you do not need to apply for a permanent premises licence. Instead, you can send your local licensing authority a ‘temporary event notice’ detailing when and where the event will take place, how long it will last, how many people will be attending and other relevant details. This notice must be sent no less than ten days before the event is due to take place and there is an accompanying fee.
If your event is due to run for more than 96 hours or host over 500 people you will likely need to apply for a full premises licence. Contact your local licensing authority for more information.
Hiring a mobile bar
If you want to let someone else deal with the hassle of licensing you could hire a company to run a cash bar for you. They should provide their own licences which is something you will need to check with them before the day. You are entitled to see proof of their licences since you, as the event organiser, can ultimately be held legally responsible for having an unlicensed bar at your event.
Selling alcohol without the appropriate licence can result in a sentence of up to six months and a fine of up to £20,000, so it really isn’t worth the risk!