How to Get an Alcohol License (and Other Licenses You Should Think About)

You can’t run a bar without alcohol. And if you’re a restaurant owner, serving alcohol can be a way to attract more customers. And whether you’re a bar or restaurant owner, you’re going to need a premises license to legally serve alcohol.

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What is a premises licence?

A premises license authorises your bar or pub (or other structure such as tent or food truck to serve alcohol, or to provide other licensable activities, which are defined in the Licensing Act 2003. Your local licensing authority will issue you with a license if you satisfy all objectives and requirements when you apply.

The objectives of The Licensing Act 2003 are:

  • The prevention of crime and disorder.
  • Public safety.
  • The prevention of public nuisance.
  • The protection of children from harm.

The requirements of The Licensing Act 2003 are:

  • Any premises undertaking licensed activities must have a premises license.
  • Any premises must have a designated premises supervisor (DPS).
  • Any premises must have a DPS who holds a personal license.

How to apply for a premises license

To make the application for a premises licence, you must be at least 18 years old, submit the correct form to your local license authority, satisfy the requirements and pay the correct fee.

You will need to decide if you’d prefer to apply online or by post. The Government’s helpful postcode tool can direct you to your local council’s instructions for application.

To fill in the form, you must provide:

  • Your personal details.
  • Details of your designated premises supervisor.
  • A detailed plan of your premises.
  • An operating schedule detailing what licensing activities will be taking place, intended opening hours and what your business will do to meet licensing objectives.

Filling in a premises application online is the easiest method, as applying by paper involves providing a copy for each responsible authority in your area. These include the police, fire service and health and safety authorities. A full list is available in the Government’s guidance. You will also need to complete a risk assessment to check your premises complies with the requirements of police and fire services.

What happens when I’ve submitted my application?

Once you have submitted your application, there is a 28-day consultation period by the licensing authority. In this time period, you must display your license summary at your premises for the public to view. Also, you must advertise your application in a local newspaper within 10 working days of making the application.

During the consultation period, responsible authorities or local residents can object to the license being awarded. If they do, the representations must be in line with the four objectives set out in The Licensing Act 2003.

If the licensing authority decides a representation is valid, they will hold a hearing. This could result in the application being rejected or the DPS may not be approved.

If you disagree with this, you have the right to appeal.

How long does a premises license last?

A premises license lasts indefinitely, but can become invalid if you breach The Licensing Act 2003, or the license holder becomes bankrupt.

How much does a premises license fee cost?

When you apply for a premises license you must pay an application fee to your local council and an annual charge. Your premises will be placed in a fee band, which costs between £100 and £1,905, and this dictates how much you will pay.

Your fee band is decided by the rateable value of the property, which is set by the Valuation Office Agency (VOA). To find the rateable value, you can use the Government’s online tool. The Government also has a list of fee bands [online[( If your premises doesn’t have a rateable value it will be placed into the lowest band.

What is a personal license?

A personal license allows an individual to sell or authorise the sale of alcohol on behalf of a business with a premises license. A personal license is intended to ensure anyone running a bar or pub sells alcohol responsibly.

A bar or pub must have at least one holder of a personal license. Although you don’t need a license to be an employee in a pub and serve alcohol, the holder of a personal license must authorise you to do so. If you’re only planning on having one personal license holder on site, this will need to be the same person as the DPS, as you must also have at least one DPS on site.

What other licenses to think about when starting a restaurant or bar?

Once you’ve applied for a premises license and a personal license, there are some other licenses to consider.

Food hygiene certificate

Any business handling food must have a food hygiene certificate, which verifies your knowledge and practise of food hygiene. Anyone who handles food in your restaurant or bar must be legally trained in food hygiene.

PRS for Music license

If you want to play or perform music on your premises, you may need to obtain a license from a PPL and PRS for Music. Any music played in a non-domestic environment legally counts as a performance.