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Commercial Licensing

Food & Drink, Entertainment

If you want to run a business selling food or drink, and alcoholic drinks in particular, there are strict licensing requirements to comply with. It’s a criminal offence to carry out licensable activity without having a licence to do so.


These are requirements for the premises themselves (whether a temporary pop-up food stall, food van, fixed restaurant, pub, club etc.), including health and safety standards, but also for you as business owner to ensure you are entitled to run the business. For example, food businesses must register with the local authority a minimum of 28 days before opening.  Similarly, premises selling alcohol or hot food and drink between 23.00 and 05.00 need to be licensed before opening to trade.  Conditions of a licence may vary depending on the proposed time of day, size of venue and proximity to residential buildings amongst other things.

You may also need to consider other issues, such as planning consent and highways consent to place tables and chairs on the street.


Gambling, Competitions & Free Draws

If your business concept involves gambling, or even a competition as part of a promotional campaign, this may entail additional licensing requirements.  For example, it can be a criminal offence to charge individuals to enter a draw, where the prize is chosen at random. This is a very complex area of law and criminal sanctions apply, so it would be a good idea to obtain professional legal advice before launching any business which could involve gambling.


Specialist Activities

Specialist activities including looking after children, handling animals (for example running a pet shop) or preparing or selling medicines etc. all require licences.  Many licences may also require you to have appropriate certification or approval from the relevant regulatory body governing your profession or trade.  



Usually, you need to apply to your local authority for the licence. Failure to obtain the relevant licences - or to comply with their requirements or to renew when needed - can lead to substantial fines and perhaps revocation of the licence and to having your business shut down.


To work out which of these licenses may be relevant to your business, you can search for the ’licence finder’ on the government’s website.


Other Commercial Licences

The term ’commercial licence’ is also sometimes used in relation to licences under intellectual property rights (copyright, trade marks, patents, etc.) to use creations, brands or technologies.  Here, 'commercial' is used to distinguish the intended use as business use for profit rather than ‘personal use.’  See Copyight, Etc. and Licensing Your Creations, Technologies & Brands for more on this.


Also a ‘commercial business premises licence’ could refer to the leasehold arrangements under which the owner of a building, the landlord, makes all or part of it available to a business to use as their offices, warehouse or other business premises.


In all of the above situations, engaging a lawyer to advise and assist with the negotiations will help you avoid any legal risks and maximise the value you can get out of the arrangement.

You should also think about ensuring you have appropriate insurance in place to cover your premises as well as you personally and your staff for the intended activities.

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