Is your interest in licensed premises registered?
by Tom Young
A number of Deacons’ clients have recently received letters from the Liquor Licensing Division (“LLD”) concerning registration of their financial interest in licensed premises that have ceased trading.
Under the Liquor Act, the Chief Executive must keep a register of licences, permits and applications which includes particulars of licensees, permittees, nominees under licences or permits and “interested persons”.
Parties with a financial interest in licensed premises, whether they be the owner, lessee, mortgagee or licensee of the premises, are required by the Liquor Act to ensure that their interest is properly registered with the LLD.
You would think that all parties having an interest in licensed premises would ensure that their interest at the time an application for a new licence or a transfer of an existing licence was registered with the LLD. However, from our experience, there seems to be a surprisingly large number who don’t.
While the penalty under the Liquor Act for failing to notify the Chief Executive within 28 days of acquiring an interest is $75.00, there are commercially important reasons for ensuring that proper notification is given. The cost to register an interest is a mere $54.00 but the consequences of failing to do so are expensive.
If a licensee vacates premises, an owner, mortgagee or other person with a registered financial interest in the premises can apply to the LLD to have the liquor licence transferred to them or another nominated party so the business can continue trading. For example, an owner of a pub whose lessee defaults and is evicted, can transfer the liquor licence into its own name on an urgent interim basis to keep the hotel running so that valuable revenue is not lost during the time it takes to find a new lessee.
Moreover, under the Liquor Act, if a licensee abandons licensed premises, the Chief Executive has the power to cancel the dormant liquor licence. If an owner of abandoned licensed premises is registered with the LLD, they can apply to the Chief Executive to retain the licence until a new operator is found. Once a suitable operator is found, the owner can then apply for the licence to be transferred to that operator.
While licences have no inherent monetary value, many readers would be aware of the LLD’s fees and the other costs involved in complying with the rigorous application process for a new licence. The cost of transferring an existing licence is far more cost and time effective than applying for one from scratch.