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Published on August 6th, 2012 | by Dean Carr

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Variation of licence: major and minor variations

The conditions on a premises licence are not set in stone. Changes can be made to the premises licence or club premises certificate through an application for the variation of licence. A variation could involve a change of the types of licensable activities, opening hours, or conditions of the licence. The application is made to the licensing authority local to the premises in question.

A variation process known as a minor variation has been introduced to facilitate small changes to the premises licence. A minor variation is cheaper and quicker than the full variation process, carrying a fee of £89. Since the introduction of the minor variation, a process of variation is typically referred to as either a major or a minor variation.

Minor variation:

Let’s begin with the minor variation; as the easier and cheaper process, it’s the type of variation that most licensees gravitate towards. An official test is used by licensing authorities to decide whether or not a proposed variation can be classed as a minor variation:

does the proposed variation have the potential to impact adversely on any of the four licensing objectives?

While this definition would seem to inspire debate, the actual role of the minor variation is in fact well established. In the words of the Department of Culture, Media and Sport’s publication on licence variation:

“We expect that the process will be used for changes such as:

  • small changes to the structure or layout of a premises;
  • the addition of authorisation for late night refreshment or regulated entertainment (such as live music, performance of plays or film exhibitions);
  • small changes to licensing hours (but see below on changes that relate to alcohol);
  • revisions, removals and additions of conditions (this could include the removal or amendment of out of date, irrelevant or unenforceable conditions, or the addition of volunteered conditions).

The Minor Variations process cannot be used to:

  • add the retail or supply of alcohol to a licence
  • extend licensing hours for the sale or supply of alcohol at any time between 11pm and 7am;
  • increase the amount of time on any day during which alcohol may be sold by retail or supplied;
  • extend the period for which the licence or certificate has effect;
  • transfer the licence or certificate from one premises to another, or vary substantially the premises to which it relates
  • specify, in a premises licence, an individual as the premises supervisor;
  • add the sale by retail or supply of alcohol as an activity authorised by a licence or certificate; or
  • disapply the mandatory conditions relating to a designated premises supervisor (there is a separate process by which community premises can apply for this).”

Source: DCMS: Minor Variations to premises licences or club premises certificates- guidance to applicants. July 2009.

Major variation:

Since the introduction of the minor variation, the major variation has emerged as a category for significant changes. Well known major variations include the extension of licensing hours into late night hours, a change of designated premises supervisor, or adding the retail or supply of alcohol to the licence as a licensable activity.

The process of changing the business structure of a premises may involve both major and minor variations. For example, a business may wish to change the designated premises supervisor (major variation) and make small changes to the layout of the premises (minor variation). For information and advice concerning variation of licence, we recommend contacting the licensing consultants at PLT on 0845 388 5472 or visiting their website.

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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



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