Alcohol Licence Law Licensing laws

Published on February 19th, 2013 | by Dean Carr


Licensing laws

Alcohol licensing laws for the UK

The licensing laws in the UK state that in order to sell alcohol in the UK you will need the following licences:


Personal Licence

To sell alcohol in the UK you must have a personal licence. The local authority has the right to take away your personal licence if it is not used responsibly and in accordance with the rules stated in the Licensing Act of 2003.

To ensure a responsible supply of alcohol, an individual must have a personal licence to sell alcohol, or be authorised by a person who has a personal licence. For example a pub landlord must own a personal licence to give them the right to sell alcohol. As a consequence, a member of the landlord’s staff would also have the right to sell alcohol under the authority of the landlord. If the member of staff were not to sell alcohol in accordance with the Licensing Act of 2003, the landlord himself would be at risk of losing his personal licence.

Premises licence

In order to sell alcohol to the public from your premises you will need to have an appropriate premises licence. If you are selling alcohol to another business and not the public, then this rule does not apply. To receive a premises licence the premises must be shown to be suitable for the sale and possible consumption of alcohol, and there must also be a personal licence holder who will be responsible for the sale of alcohol on the premises, and that is sold in accordance with the Licensing Act of 2003. This person is known as the designated premises supervisor.

A premises licence will be required as well as a personal licence if the alcohol is to be sold to members of the public, if there is to be the sale of hot food or drink between the hours of 11pm and 5am, or if alcohol is supplied to a club. A premises licence will also be required for certain entertainment events including theatre performances, live music and large sporting occasions. There will also be different regulations even amongst these entertainment events with alcohol regulations very different at different events.

Club premises certificate

There is also a licence known as the ‘club premises certificate’. With this certificate will be no need for a specific personal licence holder or designated premises supervisor. Instead a management committee will assume responsibility for the sale of alcohol. In order to qualify for this certificate the club or committee must have a list of members all of whom subscribe to that particular committee.

24-hour licences

Holding one of the above licences will generally enable you to apply to sell alcohol on a 24-hour basis, so that you can sell alcohol at any time you desire. Approval for this licence will depend on where you intend to sell the alcohol and if there are any local objections. There are also business considerations such as whether anybody will buy alcohol from you at that time.

For further information contact your local licensing authority, or our sponsors (Personal Licence Training Ltd) on 01527 544780

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About the Author

Dean Carr

Dean has been involved in alcohol licensing for over 20 years and has helped many independent retailers and corporate clients obtain a licence to sell alcohol or offer late night refreshment, regulated entertainment from all sorts of premises. Dean writes articles for various trade related blogs and is currently Managing Director of the PLT group of companies who run APLH and SCPLH personal alcohol licence courses nationwide. You can contact Dean or a member of his expert licensing team on: 01242 222 188


  1. Hi Louise,

    If you are selling alcohol (spirits or beer) wholesale to the alcohol trade, you will not need a licence. You only need to be licensed if you are selling alcohol by retail to members of the public.

    You would not need an occasional licence to sell at fairs, the event organiser should hold one, most event organisers would however require you to have a personal licence if you are selling alcohol over the counter to members of the public.

    If you need more detailed information you can contact the experts at Personal Licence Training – 0845 388 9581 (local rate call). They offer free advice.

    Good luck with your venture!

  2. Louise says:

    Hi Jeremy

    If I want to make flavoured vodka(I.e buy in the vodka and then flavour it myself), if I only sell to trade do I need a personal licence?

    I presume if I want to sell at fairs I need a personal licence and an occasional licence for that fair?

    would the situation be any different if I was making beer? As in actually manufacturing the beer, as opposed to just adding flavour to vodka?

    Many thanks


  3. Jeremy says:

    Hi Nina,

    Sorry for the delay in replying to this one. To be honest I am suprised that your council is pussyfooting around, because the laws are quite clear on this….

    Alcohol above 0.5% ABV requires a personal licence even though it is diluted. This is the same principle as, for example, gin and tonic. Although mixed with another substance alcohol is still alcoholic. You will need a personal licence to sell your icecream, and if you sell it at a farmers market, if they don’t poccess a licence themselves, you will need a temporary events notice. Also you will need a premise licence to store the icecream.

    If any of these terms are new to you search for them on this site as all of the subjects are covered in detail. Alternatively contact our sponsors, Personal Licence Training Ltd who are licensing experts, on 0845 388 9581.

  4. Nina Young says:

    Please help/advise !! I make home made ice cream with a twist for example vanilla vodka, chocolate and cointreau, caramel and tooleys and so on I am looking to sell my ice cream at local farmers markets. I am at a stand still with my local council as to whether i need a licence or not ? the alcohol used in the ice cream is not over 57% abv and i use around 75ml in 1 litre of ice cream. I appreciate that i would not sell the ice cream to under 18’s i have a 15 year old myself who i dont allow to have it. Its not a problem for me to apply for a licence and if it puts the council at ease i would be happy to. But if you can I would really like some advice and knowledge on the matter. Thanks

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