Just like any bar, pub or restaurant, a hotel requires a premises licence pursuant to the Licensing Act 2003 in order to carry out licensable activities.

This is the case regardless of whether the site in question has two or 200 rooms. Selling alcohol is a licensable activity and those multitude of guest houses that do not have a premises licence are trading illegally unless alcohol is being genuinely given away free of charge. For hotels, the licensable activities required and the scope for operational flexibility can vary greatly from other types of licensed premises.

In order to successfully navigate the regulatory regime, here are a few ‘tricks of the trade’ to keep in mind:

Cover all the bases

  • Applying for a premises licence for a hotel should not be a rushed job, as hotel licence applications can be significantly more complicated than an application for a pub or a restaurant, even though the underlying licence is the same. Common oversights include forgetting to include the bedrooms within the licensed area where ‘mini-bars’ are being used, neglecting to ask for 24-hour drinking for residents and their bona fide guests and forgetting to apply for regulated entertainment past 11pm when capacity is over 500. If you know that the application will be controversial, it generally pays to pre-consult with the key statutory authorities such as environmental health and the police.

Carefully consider function room use

  • While function rooms can be a very important revenue source, any large crowd ‘partying’ into the night can be a concern for the police, environmental health and local residents. If the intention is to only use the function room from time to time, it might be sensible to proffer conditions whereby the use of the function room is limited to a certain number of events per year or, alternatively, you could suggest that all music or amplified speech is channelled through the premises’ sound system, which has a pre-set noise limiter installed to ensure that a certain decibel level is not exceeded.

Check the local council’s licensing policy

  • Some councils have specific policies relating to applications for premises licences for hotels, which are usually less rigorous than those for pubs or bars. Where such a policy exists, such as in the City of Westminster, reference should be made to it in the licence application.

Do not forget that, to a certain extent, hotels are self-regulating

  • A common concern that local residents have when faced with a new hotel on their doorstep is noise escape. When negotiating representations, an applicant should not lose sight of the fact that, by having residents staying ‘above the shop’, there is a strong financial incentive to prevent noise outbreak for fear of alienating the key customers, the overnight guests.

Other licences might be required

  • It is not simply a premises licence that may be required. If the hotel is to host wedding ceremonies (not merely receptions) a wedding licence from the local council will be needed. If there are any tables and chairs located on the pavement outside of the hotel’s demise, a tables and chairs (sometimes also known as a pavement licence) will be needed and possibly planning permission.