Some golf clubs in England and Wales are still unsure about the new licensing laws All licensees that do not apply to their local council to transfer their licence by 6th August will have to apply for an entirely new one. Those that do not have a valid licence on 24th November, the date on which the new regime goes live, will not be able to sell alcohol, put on regulated entertainment or sell hot food or drink after 11pm.
Government sources estimate that up to 60 per cent still need to get their forms in. A new information line has been funded by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and is going live on Monday 25th July.
The line will help businesses take the first steps towards applying for a licence, and give information on deadlines and key contact details for local authorities. From Monday, the number to call is 020 7072 7447. Licensees can also e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
According to the National Golf Clubs‘ Advisory Association (NGCAA) some golf clubs are doing their best to follow the new system but are encountering problems in their efforts, despite clear guidance being given to local authorities and the police last year by the Department of Media, Culture and Sport on the implementation of new licensing laws,.
The common stumbling block seems to be the interpretation of Section 67 of the 2003 Licensing Act, which puts limitations on who is or isn‘t a ‘guest‘ or ‘visitor‘ to a club, and whether events such as weddings and social evenings are within the scope of the club’s drinks licence.
“In a nutshell,” says Michael Shaw from NGCAA, “some councils are digging in their heels on the grounds that a drinks license that extends to all manner of invited guests might be abused by some clubs. They seem be worried that the definition ‘invited guests and visitors‘ could be stretched to include simply any member of the public. They seem to think their local golf club might become a rock venue, drug supermarket or strip-joint overnight! Golf clubs are not pubs or roadhouses. They are members clubs. In the golfing fraternity members take their responsibilities very seriously.
“In fact, there are enough safeguards in the Act to prevent such abuse if these apprehensive councils would just apply the regulations in the way that Parliament intended.
“By using a crude, heavy-handed approach, where a degree of commonsense and sensitivity is called for, they‘re forcing clubs to apply for a full license and imposing an unnecessary burden on committees that are acting in good faith.”
The NGCAA has examined the issues in depth and concluded that if councils refuse to issue an alcoholic beverages license on these spurious grounds, their decision would certainly be overturned in any ensuing legal action.
“Nonetheless, golf club secretaries up and down the country are worried about the intransigence of many councils,” says Shaw. “They shouldn‘t be. Licensed golf clubs are entitled to use the bar to entertain their members; their members‘ guests; visitors from other clubs; these visitors‘ guests; and non-members who properly contract to make use of the clubs facilities for social functions from time-to-time.”