Liquor licences – a word of comfort

The temporary closure of premises in the hospitality industry is already well documented.  Many more will be considering a temporary shutdown or restricted trading hours.


Among the myriad considerations for such businesses will be the impact of the closure on what is a valuable and core asset – the liquor licence.  Liquor licences trade on the open market for significant sums; they provide the authority to sell alcohol on or from premises; and without them, licensed premises cannot operate.


The first consideration when investigating a liquor licence is to ask whether it is a “subsisting licence”, i.e. is it a valid live liquor licence?  Schedule 2 of the Licensing (Northern Ireland) Order 1996 recognises a “subsisting licence only if the business authorised by the licence has been regularly carried on throughout, or for a substantial part of, the year immediately preceding the date of its surrender”.  While there is no express legislative guidance on what constitutes a “substantial part” of the year, closure of up to six months could be accommodated.

While great care has been taken in the preparation of the content of this article, it does not purport to be a comprehensive statement of the relevant law and full professional advice should be taken before any action is taken in reliance on any item covered.