Alcohol licencing legislation temporarily amended to support Island businesses

03 August 2020

Temporary measures to support both licensed hospitality businesses and the wider community have been introduced with immediate effect.

The Department of Home Affairs and Business Isle of Man, an Executive Agency within the Department for Enterprise, have announced the Licensing (Amendment) Act 2020 came into operation on 23rd July 2020.

A result of a close collaboration between both departments to assist with the recovery from COVID-19, the temporary changes made within this Act are intended to support both licensed hospitality businesses and the wider community by amending both the Licensing Act 1995 and the Music and Dancing Act 1961

The first key change will mean businesses with a valid alcohol licence can continue to operate for another year automatically without having to re-apply to the Licensing Court. The deferral of the triennial session of the Court – from March 2021 to March 2022 - coincides with a one-off, fee-free year for each existing licence within that period.

Additionally, and of benefit to the wider community, the music and dancing licences which are held by local venues and follow the same triennial schedule will also be deferred. These licences extended automatically and also receive a one-off, fee-free year.

The second change to the Act is that until the end of September 2020, any portion of the highway which is adjacent to licensed premises may be treated as part of the licensed premises if a pavement license is granted. This means that hospitality businesses with an existing on-licence can apply for a pavement café licence which would allow them to serve alcohol within this area without having to apply to the Licensing Court for an amendment to their on-licence. This provides the potential for premises themselves, along with the public, to benefit from additional outdoor dining space.

Both changes are part of a response to the licensing industry’s concerns about the impact of COVID-19 on their business and were developed together with representatives from the trade. Through imaginative legislative measures and practical support, this flexibility allows the trade to embrace safe, sensible and stable variations during the economic fightback from the pandemic.

Minister for Home Affairs, Graham Cregeen MHK, commented:

‘During the COVID-19 outbreak, alongside its vital, and perhaps more visible services such as the Police, Prison and Probation Service, Fire and Rescue Service, Communication Division and Emergency Planning, my Department recognised it was in the economic and social interests of the Island to promote a change to the Island’s licensing law, which it has been proud to bring forward on behalf of the Island’s Government. 

‘We have worked closely with the Department for Enterprise in seeking to assist the licensed trade both during the emergency period and, importantly, after it. We also recognise the support from Tynwald Members in assisting the passage of this Bill through both branches, in what could be seen as record timing, to ensure this vital piece of legislation can stimulate business now. 

‘My Department would also acknowledge the role of the Licensing Forum which has been a key platform for many years through which the Department and the wider licensed trade can openly discuss both legislation applying to the trade, and more recently, the issues they have faced since the COVID-19 outbreak.’

Minister for Enterprise, Laurence Skelly MHK, also commented:

‘As the Department responsible for creating an environment where local entrepreneurship is supported, we welcome and support these amendments which aim to offer relief and opportunity in the shorter term to hospitality businesses. It is also fantastic to see cross-Departmental work in order to bring these changes to fruition.

‘The hospitality sector is an essential part of the day-to-day lives of local residents, improving quality of life and helping to make the Isle of Man an attractive place to live, work and invest, as well as being a draw to visitors of our Island. We have seen that more than ever during the outbreak of COVID-19 as restaurants, cafes, pubs, and other eateries adapted so well to help cater for our Island in the difficult circumstances.’

Both the Department for Enterprise and the Department of Home Affairs will continue to work together to support this important sector, including the adaptation and modernisation of legislation where appropriate.