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It is helpful to remember that the consumption of alcohol is not a licensable activity. If your customers are taking their drinks outside and sitting in the garden, then you most likely have little to worry about, as long as your beer garden is on your licensing plan or was referred to when the licence was applied for.

It is, however, always a good idea to read your licence to check whether there are conditions which require you to close the outside area at a particular time, or to display keep quiet notices, etc.

With outside bars, however, there are some key questions to consider:

Is your garden licensed?

Selling drinks from an outside bar will require the external area to be licensed. You need to check your licensing plan to ensure the outside bar is within the red-lined area. If it is not already included in your licence, a major variation will be required, which can take 28 days. However, if there are objections a hearing before the licensing authority must take place in the following 20 working days, which is why now is the time to start thinking about the summer!

Are you proposing to use a temporary movable structure?

Following a recent change in the law (January 2021), a movable structure will no longer require planning permission providing:

  • it is less than 3 metres high;
  • it is at least 2 metres away from the nearest residential development; and
  • it doesn’t exceed either 50 square metres or 50% of the size of your pub.

Previously, a temporary bar could only be erected for 28 days in any one calendar year, and so this change is a big help to those wanting to erect temporary bars within structures such as marquees/sails/ gazebos etc. Please note that the rules are slightly different for historic visitor attractions and hospitality businesses operating in listed buildings.

Are you proposing to construct a permanent bar in the outside area?

A permanent structure will require planning permission, which can take a while to obtain. An outside bar must be shown on your licensing plan and included within the red-lined area. Again, it is also worth carefully reading your licence to check whether the opening hours for an existing external bar are restricted, or whether any other conditions apply. If any changes to the licence are required then a variation application will need to be submitted to your local authority, which again will take 28 days, or longer depending on whether objections are received.

Intensive use of an external area can also increase the potential for noise nuisance. Thought needs to be given as to how customer noise can be controlled to ensure complaints are avoided and to assist with maintaining a positive relationship with your neighbours.

Music has been deregulated outside up to 11pm to audiences under 500 people and so will be permitted in a beer garden. However, very careful consideration needs to be given to how music, especially music that is amplified, is controlled. There is no ability to close windows and doors in an outside area and so noise can very easily disturb neighbours. A noise management plan is a good place to start, a template for which can be downloaded here.

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