Entertainment Licensing tips for the Event Organiser

This guest article has been kindly provided by a Licensing Expert.

Enquiries about Licensing Services can be sent by email to Paul Newman, Licensing Consultant.

The information on these pages is specific to England and Wales in the UK.

Supply of alcohol, and live music, and other entertainments, including performance of dance, are licensable under the Licensing Act 2003, so as an events organiser, you need to be informed about how to get events correctly licensed, and also, when you don’t need a licence.  Since 2005 , it has been possible for event organisers to get authorisation for entertainments and supply of alcohol at events relatively quickly and easily.  The licensing process however contains a few pitfalls for the unwary, which if you fell victim to them, could mean significant parts of your planned event could not go ahead.

The Live Music Act has liberalised the licensing regime even further, so in some ways it is easier to put on live music, although the rules on when music needs a licence and when it doesn’t, are now much more complicated.

Temporary Event Notice (TEN)

Event organisers providing Licensable activities

As an event organiser, you may be asked to provide live music, or have alcohol available at the event, for example with a Pimms marquee, or mulled wine stall.  These are all examples of licensable activities, that will usually need a licence.

Your right to provide licensable activities without a licence.

If you are over the age of 18, you have a right to provide licensable activities on a limited number of times each year, for a limited number of people, and for a limited time, without a licence, and for a low cost.  For the clued-on events organiser, this is great; you can use music and alcohol sales to attract interest, and boost revenue from drinks sales at your event.

To take advantage of this right, you can serve a notice (a ‘Temporary Event Notice’ or ‘TEN’) that complies with all the formalities, telling the licensing authority for the area where the event will take place, when and where you intend to to provide the licensable activities.  The notice is a compulsory standard form, which is quite complicated (it was designed by a civil servant at the Department of Culture, Media, and Sport, need I say more!), especially when you first see one.

The numbers game: audience limits on Temporary Event Notices served for events.

Before you fill in a Temporary Event Notice, you should ask yourself if the event will have more than 499 people on site at any given time, including staff and performers.  This is presently the most you are allowed, and if the number will be larger, you cannot use a TEN.  You can get around this with alcohol sales by defining e.g. a marquee, or a single room in a building as ‘the premises’, providing not more than 499 can get in at any one time.

For music audiences this may be more difficult to limit, and you may need to think about a Premises Licence instead (after of course checking whether you need a licence at all).

Time limits on Temporary Event Notices served for events.

One Temporary Event Notice can authorise events on the same site spanning 168 hours (one week).  Surprisingly, you are not limited to one event per Notice, and you could use the same Notice to authorise a music festival one day, and an unrelated beer festival a few days later, provided it all takes place under your authorisation, on the same premises, and within a seven day window.

If you want to run for more than a week; can you use two separate TENs?

Yes you can, but there must be a 24 hours gap between the end of the first notice, and the start of the second.

You can serve up to 5 Temporary Event Notices in a year, but each premises can only have TENs on 21 separate days in the year, so you will need to check with the owner of the premises whether any TENs have already been served.  Temporary Event Notices that run over midnight count as 2 days off the 21 day total.

Where can you get the forms to apply?

The blank Temporary Event Notices can be downloaded from most Local Authority websites, or a generic one can be obtained from the Home Office website.  You have to send 2 copies to the council with the £21 fee, and a copy to the Police.  You can also serve a Temporary Event Notice online, and in this case, you don’t need to send copies.  (BTW, it’s a ‘Notice’ not an ‘Application’, so you ‘serve’ it, you don’t ‘apply’ for it).

How much notice do you need to give?

Many people have been caught out by this!  Temporary Event Notices need a full 10 working days notice (Bank Holidays don’t count), not including the day you serve it, or the day of the event.  This means if you want to run an event of a Saturday, the latest you can serve is the Friday, (and not the Monday), a fortnight previously.  Many wedding reception pay bars have had to become free bars, because the notice was served on a Monday.

Late TENs

It is now possible to serve a TEN on less than 10 working days notice, but you are limited to 2 per year, and they can be refused by the Police or the Health Inspector, without any right of appeal.

Live Music Act: Exceptions for performances of live music.

 You don’t need a licence for live music if:

It takes place between 8 a.m. and 11 p.m, and

Either, it is unamplified.;
Or, it is amplified, but for audiences of under 200 at any workplace, or any premises licensed to sell alcohol.

When you should consider professional help with Licensing

  1. When failure is not an option.  If you are organising an important event where your reputation is at stake if anything goes wrong, get a licensing expert to assist.
  2. When your time is better spent elsewhere.  Complicated forms are another pressure on your busy schedule, and it may make sense to have a professional complete and submit these for you.
  3. When the Police or Environmental Health are likely to object.  You may need to act quickly to negotiate conditions that will satisfy whichever enforcing authority served an objection notice.  An expert will be best placed to negotiate on your behalf.
  4. When it is a larger event for more than 499 people, needing a Premises Licence.