Failure to ask the right questions and make the right enquiries when buying licensed premises could lead to a restaurant, pub, club or off-licence being unable to sell alcohol or provide regulated entertainment for a period of at least 28 days.
We regularly use a list of 13 enquiries, relevant to various aspects of the business or operation being purchased, the most important of which is the production of the current premises licence and the plan referred to therein. The detail of the licence and the plan must be checked against the layout of the premises to make absolutely certain they have not been altered without a variation application being made. There are a number of other questions which deal with the track record of the premises: buying premises with a record of failed test purchases could lead to a review of the licence in the hands of the purchaser!
As well as the formal pre-contract enquiries, a phone call to the licensing department of the local authority, the police, trading standards and the fire service is recommended. All these bodies are invariably helpful and can start warning bells ringing.
Finally, be aware that a premises licence will lapse if the holder dies or becomes insolvent or if the company is dissolved or, if in the case of a club, if it ceases to be a recognised club. The premises licence can be resurrected if an interim authority is applied for within seven days. It is no good buying a lapsed premises licence as you will be unable to trade again for a period of at least 28 days!