Licensee’s responsibility for acts of sub-tenant at the Funky Lounge
The London Borough of Enfield, represented by Emma Dring, have successfully resisted an appeal against its refusal to grant a premises licence on the basis of problem sub-tenants.
District Judge Allison (sitting at Tottenham Magistrates Court) heard an appeal by the lessee of Funky Lounge, Green Lanes, Enfield. The Appellant had a 12 year lease of the premises and had previously run a coffee shop/ice cream parlour there until 2011 when, it was claimed, the premises were sub-let. There were complaints from local residents and neighbouring shopkeepers about nuisance behaviour and illegal activity at the premises in 2011 and early 2013.
The Appellant applied for a premises licence for the supply of alcohol, late night refreshment and a terminal hour of midnight (later agreeing to reduce the hours). Two police visits took place on 16th and 17th May 2013. Police saw unauthorised gaming and evidence of unauthorised alcohol supply. On the latter visit, an arrest was made in respect of possession of a Class A drug and a forged passport.
Although the Appellant argued that she had removed the sub-tenants upon becoming aware of the problems and complaints, Enfield rejected her application. It did not have confidence in the Appellant’s intentions or ability to run licensed premises, and felt that the same types of customers might be attracted if a premises licence were granted.
On her appeal, the Appellant argued that she should not be held responsible for incidents that she had not known about, and which had all happened while sub-tenants had been in occupation and before she had regained control.
The District Judge did not agree. She found the Appellant’s evidence to be vague and inconsistent. She was not satisfied that the premises had in fact been sub-let and concluded that, even if the sub-letting had occurred, the inevitable conclusion was that the Appellant had failed to ensure that her sub-tenant operated in accordance with the law. On the evidence the decision was not wrong; in fact it was plainly right.
The case demonstrates once again that Licensing Authorities must focus on the wider public interest and risk in terms of the licensing objectives. Each case must be determined on its merits, but it would be wrong to ignore a troubled history even if the problems were associated with someone else. A Licensing Authority is entitled to seek assurance that there will be a break from the past and that the licensing objectives will be promoted in the future.