Is the applicant suitable?

Suitability may be established by considering a range of factors. Each agency will consider specific areas of an applicant’s suitability, as set out in the table below (note this is not an exhaustive list of factors, and the roles allocated are indicative only).

Licensing Inspector Police Health  
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Previous experience

Check for previous experience in the operation of licensed premises or in the hospitality industry. If they do not have experience, check to see if they have an experienced general manager or experience in other businesses.

Previous convictions

Vet the applicant, all directors, shareholders and others associated with the application, using the National Intelligence Application (NIA).

Note: ARLA has set some guidelines in relation to convictions (G L Osbourne decision 2388/95).

  • A five-year period of no offending for serious convictions either involving alcohol or arising in the course of the applicant’s duty on a licensed premises.
  • A minimum of two years free from conviction for any minor convictions or single conviction not disclosing a pattern of offending.
These are guidelines only and were applied in the context of an application for a manager's certificate. For a licensee, previous convictions are relevant but are merely one of the factors to take into account when determining suitability.
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Character and reputation

  • Intelligence on character and reputation can come from any source, including public objectors.
  • Character and reputation can be gauged if the applicant is holds a temporary authority prior to obtaining his or her off-licence. This gives the regulatory agencies an opportunity to view the licensee in action.
  • Reporting on character and reputation allows the regulatory agencies to look beyond previous convictions. This may involve checks on associates and investigating links to groups that may be unsuitable ie, gangs or organised criminal groups.
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Training and qualifications

  • Check the applicant has the appropriate systems, staff and training to comply with the law.
  • Copies of any relevant qualifications and certificates should accompany the application or be sought.
  • Ensure the applicant has the appropriate staff training in place, you may want to ask for training manuals or logs.
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Knowledge of the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act

If there is any doubt about the validity or value of the qualifications supplied, the Licensing Inspector will meet with the applicant to quiz them on their knowledge.

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Previous unlawful operation of premises

  • Certain breaches of the Act will result in a ‘holding’ against the licence. A holding is an adverse finding in an ARLA hearing. If there are three such holdings within three years then the licence can be cancelled for five years.
  • Offences and breaches of the Act that will generate a holding are held electronically in a central repository managed by ARLA and accessible by Police and Licensing Inspectors.
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Maturity of applicant

An individual must be at least 20-years-old to apply for a licence, but some 20-year-olds are more mature than others. The real issue is whether you believe the applicant is capable of running and controlling the proposed licensed premises.

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Breach of any undertaking

An undertaking is a promise offered by a licensee in order to allow the granting of a licence, where some doubt over suitability may be cast. If this undertaking or promise is broken, it will have a significant impact on the applicant’s suitability.
* * * Any of the above in relation to other people involved in the application.
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Can the applicant prove how income is derived or where the purchase money has been sourced?

  • Check that the applicant is not fronting the premises for possible unsuitable persons.
  • You may require the applicant to provide some specific documentary evidence to ensure that the business is theirs.
  • Most applicants will willingly respond to such enquiries. If they become defensive and start citing issues of commercial sensitivity, then further investigation may be required.


Hints and tips

Document and keep a complete record of all enquiries as this may later need to be used in evidence.

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