Legalease Home page
Regulated businesses


Public houses

The business of operating a public house is mainly regulatede by the extensive body of licensing legislation in the UK. Public houses will need to conform to some or all of the following legal areas:

* Alcohol sale requirements
* Food Business requirements
* Entertainments licences
* Betting, gaming and lotteries
Music licences
* Smoke-free premises

The British Institute of Innkeeping (now known as BII) was founded in 1981 and has the object of providing professional qualifications for the licensed retail sector.


On 18 October 2012, the Gambling Commission warned owners of clubs, pubs and hotels that hosting poker as private gaming is not possible without excluding public access. The update reminds licensees that private gaming can only take place in an area which is not accessible by members of the public. It also warns that attempts to use dubious, temporary or impromptu private membership as a front for private gaming risks breaching the law.

A licensee must not act as a ‘betting intermediary’,i.e.a person who provides a service for the making of bets between other people (the customer and the bookmaker.

See Gambling

Contract with customer

A table reservation and the terms of supply of food and services including the prices are governed by the contract between the proprietor and customer. The contract will normally become binding when the costomer's booking is accepted and the customer's order is accepted by the server. The terms and conditions are rarely written so the terms will generally be those "implied" by the law, in particular the Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982.

For further information on the contractual aspect, and the rights and obligations of the supplier and the customer, see :
Selling and marketing

Pubco statutory code - England and Wales

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills announced on 08/01/2013 plans for the appointment of an independent Adjudicator to address unfair practices in the pub industry and to establish a new statutory Code to regulate the relationship between large pub companies (pubcos) and publicans, which will be enforced by the Adjudicator.

The Pubs Code (the Code) came into force on 21 July 2016 and regulates the relationship between all pub companies owning 500 or more tied pubs in England and Wales (known as ‘pub-owning businesses’) and their tied pub tenants. The Code supports two core principles:

* fair and lawful dealing by pub-owning businesses in relation to their tied tenants;

* tied tenants should be no worse off than they would be if they were not subject to any product or service tie.

The Code makes sure that tied pub tenants:

* receive the information they need to make informed decisions about taking on a pub or new terms and conditions;

* can have their tied rent reassessed if they haven’t had a rent review for 5 years;

* can request a Market Rent Only (or MRO) option to go free of tie in specific circumstances, including at a rent review or renewal of their tenancy.

The Pubs Code etc. Regulations 2016

The Pubs Code etc. Regulations 2016 regulate practices and procedures to be
followed by large pub-owning businesses (defined in the Small Business, Enterprise
and Employment Act 2015 (the SBEE Act) as those owning 500 or more tied pubs) in
their dealings with their tied pub tenants.

See further: Pub Code Adjudicator

Pavement café licence
To place tables, chairs or other temporary furniture on the pavement, you may need:
* planning permission from the local planning authority;
* a highway licence from the local authority (e.g. the county council unless the authority is a unitary authority which will also be responsible for planning permission).
For further information, visit the local authority's website.

TV Premier League football on TV
News items:
17/08/2012: Prosecution of pub landlord invalid: Media Protection Services Ltd v Andrew Crawford and Christine Crawford.
08/03/2012: Karen Murphy v Media Protection Services Ltd

Further information
For further information, see:
the British Beer and Pub Association
the British Hospitality Association
the Nationwide Caterers Association

The Nationwide Caterers Association has useful information on the "due dilgence" defence in relation to a food law prosecution. It also has guides on:
* Starting Up a Mobile Bar
* Starting Up a Pub / Wine Bar

What's new

25/01/2020: Pubs across the UK to benefit from £1,000 business rates discount

The new Pubs Relief will be introduced in April, with £1,000 being taken off the business rates bills of small pubs who qualify. As many as 18,000 pubs are expected to benefit from the discount. The relief will come on top of an extended retail discount, which smaller pubs are also eligible for. Those eligible for both reliefs will get up to £13,500 off their annual bills.

The Pubs Relief is part of a package of measures that is being introduced by the government to support local high streets. From April this year:

* small shops and cafes will see their bills halved as the retail discount, currently a third off, is extended to 50%;

* music venues and cinemas will become eligible for the retail discount;

* a £1,500 discount for local newspapers office space will be extended for a further five years

The pubs relief will apply to pubs with a rateable value below £100,000 subject to eligibility. Pubs with a rateable value of below £51,000 already get a one-third reduction in their rates bill through the retail discount. The £1,000 discount is in addition and will apply after the retail discount.

In 2020-21, the Government will increase the existing business rates retail discount (which includes pubs) to 50 per cent, and include live music venues (up to a rateable value of £51,000).

All reliefs are subject to State Aid limits, which limits the amount of support available to any business to €200,000 over a rolling three-year period.

[Page updated: 02/02/2020]


<Back to Regulated businesses list