Memorandum submitted by Jason Lunn


I am Events Director for a medium sized event company working at large exhibition and showground venues around the UK. After 15 years in the Industry I am studying for an MA in Events & Exhibition Management at Birmingham City University.


My dissertation will be about the Licensing Act (2003) and its effects / use in the industry but here are some observations (please note I am a personal license holder):


1. Venues that hold licenses:

Many venues we visit have gone through extremely costly applications for the new licensing system attempting to cover every conceivable aspect of entertainment that could take place. Their costs have been quoted as going from hundreds of pounds in the old system to many thousands of pounds in the new system. This cost has been directly passed onto exhibition organisers increasing venue costs and affecting the viability of certain events.


2. Designated Premises Supervisors

With many large venues the Managing Director / Chief Executive can be the responsible person. Often this leads to an overemphasis of risk to justify increased costs and even taking control from event organisers under the excuse that 'its my name on the license'


3. Different Venues / Different Areas apply the act Differently

Here are 2 examples.

a. A venue in Eastern England and the local authority worked closely for over a year to apply the act throughout their venue. The act did not account for a large outdoor venue with lots of different buildings / bars and facilities where many different types of entertainment and alcohol sales would take place. It was designed for one venue, which was easy to apply the act to. Therefore the venue and the council had to take a 'best guess' approach and agree a strategy to apply the act. This was costly and has led to increased costs for the venue and organisers on the site.

b. A venue in the South West of England. The council do not have the staff to apply the act fully and therefore have kept a watching brief over the venue however over the last 12 months this has become more complicated. The venue has decided not to obtain a license for the site but get organisers to obtain their own licenses for each event. With large venues like this with multipurpose areas its difficult to obtain all the relevant details (rates, accurate plans, etc) as the venue does not belong to the event organiser and certain information is not shared between venues and organisers due to confidentiality. There can often be several different licences running on site at the same time with organisers having licenses for certain areas and stand holders also having licenses for certain activity (bars, hospitality).




4. What's licensable?

Often in our exhibitions large exhibition stands have hospitality and bring in buffets and alcohol for guests, is this licensable? The way the alcohol is distributed and the controls are debatable but this is an essential part of a major exhibition. This can lead to conflict between organisers, venues and exhibitors.


5. Working around the act.

In my view as an organiser all venues should be licensed. Many simply push the responsibility onto organisers. I feel strongly that if a venue is selling itself as a venue it should take responsibility for the license.

Many authorities and venues simply tell people how to work around the act. For instance over 5000 attendees at an event means a huge increase in costs for applications, which restricts the size of an event or forces organisers and venues state a lower attendance.

Example: One venue and authority have agreed the following to get around the act. There is a large building where entertainment is held and a bar is built. In order to stay under 500 people each event puts a white line on the floor around the bar restricting the number of people who can stand around the bar. However this does not stop the organiser having more than 500 people in the entertainment area as there is no physical barrier. In my opinion the act is useless in this scenario and is meaningless in its physical affects but the venue and authority are happy with the solution. However the alternative would simply mean that the entertainment would not go ahead and campers at events would have nothing to do in the evening (the venue has had entertainment in the facility for many years).


6. Temporary Bars at Events

When a venue does hold a license and has a designated premises supervisor (DPS) often organisers renting the venue will sell the temporary bars to a 3rd party bar operator. Therefore organisers have to get the permission of the venues DPS to take responsibility for bars operated by a 3rd party when the DPS may know nothing about them. The act does not allow for 3rd party users of sites despite this being part of the exhibitions industry for many many years.


7. Alcohol and Entertainment / Costs

While it can be said these are related should they be held under the same license? Entertainment and Alcohol have different requirements yet the paperwork and costs are the same. It should be MORE difficult to license alcohol than entertainment, I would suggest simplifying the paperwork for entertainment and using a similar system that exists now for alcohol. Many organisers and venues simply don't bother with certain activities anymore due to the costs and paperwork. Also local papers are on a gravy train with many organisers and venues forced to pay for advertising in their papers - there is no choice you HAVE to use them. Why not an announcements page in papers rather than force us to pay for costly advertising.


8. Empowering local residents.

A good idea but what about when the venue was there first and the houses built around? Suddenly a venue that has existed for years and is doing everything it normally does is put under pressure by residents who have chosen to move next to the venue.


September 2008