Lockdown restrictions have started to be relaxed in many areas, but the one area that is still suffering is the events and hospitality sector. With this in mind, people are looking for ways to get around the fact that most venues are either still shut, or are having to impose protective measures that make it impractical to hold many events. That’s why we’re seeing lots of people moving events outdoors. The one question that keeps on coming up is, “Do I need a license to hold an outdoor event?”. The answer isn’t actually as complicated as you might think, but does need a bit of explaining.

When you hold an event at a venue, the venue has to have a premises license. That license is issued by the local authority, and it stipulates what licensable activities can take place, where and when. Most venues will also want to sell alcohol, so in addition, they have to have permission to do so from the local authority. In order to get permission the venue has to have a designated premises supervisor (DPS) who is also usually a personal license holder. The DPS doesn’t need to be present all the time when alcohol is being sold, but is ultimately the person who is responsible for ensuring that the objectives of the licensing act (and the operating schedule for the premises) are being upheld.

The premises license states what, where and when licensable activities can take place. Unless outdoor events is normal for the venue, it’s unlikely that use of outdoor space attached to a venue would be covered by the premises license. This isn’t as big an issue as you might think. The licensing laws allow for each venue to “issue” a number of Temporary Event Notices (TENs) per year that allows the venue to hold an event that is not covered by their normal premises license. When I say “issued” it’s still an application to the local authority (and has a charge attached to it – in Birmingham, the cost is £21) and must be applied for no later than 10 working days before the event is due to take place.

The number of TENs depends on whether or not the person applying is a personal license holder. If you are a personal license holder then you can issue a maximum of 50 TENs per year. If not, you must be at least 18 years of age, and can issue a maximum of 5 TENs per year. Premises are limited to a maximum total duration of the periods covered by temporary event notices of 21 days per calendar year or 15 TENs per calendar year.

If the event is due to take place sooner than 21 days, under certain circumstances, a Late Notice can be issued. Late notices can be given no later than 5 working days but no earlier than 9 working days before the event. Personal license holders can issue up to 5 late notices per year and non-personal license holders can issue a maximum of 2 late notices per year. If there are any objections from either the police or environmental health, the licensing authority will issue a counter notice and it would then be unlawful for licensable activities to proceed.

The event itself must involve fewer than 500 people at any one time, and the maximum period for using premises (which includes outdoors) for licensable activities under a TEN is 7 days – with a minimum of 24 hours between events.

Earlier, I mentioned about “licensable activities” – that’s the key phrase here. You only need a premises license (or temporary event notice) if your event will be carrying out a licensable activity, so what are licensable activities? It’s quite a long list, but here are some of the more common activities for which you would need a license or TEN:

  • Showing Films (there are other restrictions and licenses that you need when showing films, so make sure you research that properly)
  • Boxing and Wrestling
  • Live Music
  • Recorded Music
  • Performance of Dance
  • Entertainment similar to music or dance
  • Late night refreshment (between 11pm and 5am)
  • Sale or supplies of alcohol

There are some general exemptions (which bizarely includes entertainment provided on a moving vehicle, and also use of television or radio equipment to receive and play programmes at the time of broadcast) but it’s best to check with your local authority so you don’t end up having the heavies turn up and shut your event down.