Club Law and Management
by Philip Smith, Secretary of the A.C.C.
Minotaur Asset Finance
A large number of Clubs have reported receiving a letter, and leaflet, from Minotaur Asset Finance.
This company seeks to provide assistance to Clubs and makes particular reference to members risking personal liability of debt.
The company is interested in planning and property development of Club sites and offers to assist Clubs with debt management whilst they arrange for planning applications to be made.
The company also offers a "free" cost management service to those Clubs which are not experiencing any difficulties.
Please note that Minotaur Asset Finance is not an ACC recommended company and the ACC would advise Clubs to refer any proposals that may be made by this company to the ACC.
The previous Government released additional guidance as to what will constitute irresponsible drink promotions. Most Conservative Clubs are unlikely to fall foul of these, of which the main points are listed below.
Games where an individual is encouraged to drink a quantity of alcohol within a time limit and 'all you can drink offers'.
Unlimited or unspecified quantities of alcohol for free, or at a fixed or discounted price such as 'Lady Members drink half price on Thursday nights'.
Free or discounted alcohol when viewing a sporting event when dependent or linked to the outcome, or something occurring or not occurring - such as 'a free beer for predicting the first goal'.
Selling or supplying alcohol in response to a poster or flyer displayed on or in the vicinity of the Club which condones, encourages or glamorises anti social behaviour - such as 'discounted drinks to assist you on your path to oblibion'.
Effectively, any promotion which carries a significant risk of crime and disorder, public safety, public nuisance or harm to children will be prohibited.
For instance, a special offer on drinks during a football match would likely not be prohibited if it was undetaken in a responsible way. However it is important to note that as this guidance is relatively new we do not have much in the way of real life examples as to how Local Authorities will interpret the guidance. From the legal standpoint, the legislation has not changed; it is just that Local Authorities have taken it upon themselves to provide guidance on the legislation. Nevertheless, a promotion will only be contary to the licensing conditions if it is clearly irresponsible. This has always been the case and has not suddenly changes with the production of this 'guidance'.
Clubs should also be aware of misleading language used by both the Home Office and DCMS. Certain literature from both suggests that large quantities of alcohol based promotions will be banned, whereas the actual legislation just refers to unspecified or unlimited quantities of alcohol which if offered for free or at a discount. Therefore, where a pound a pint may fail as a legitimate promotion under the above, offering 20 pints for £1 each would not be banned as the offered alcohol would be capped.
Clubs may offer a set number of drinks with an entry fee to an event. A £30 ticket which includes 10 free drinks is a perfectly legitimate promotion.
There has been additional guidance issued on the supply of free tap water to customers. Customers is the crucial part, as there appears to be no requirement to offer tap water to people who have not, in some way, already traded with the Club by some sort of purchase. This will prevent people from purely asking for free tap water instead of purchasing paid for drinks. We can also confirm that it is not a requirement to advertise that free tap water is available.
We suggest that, as most Clubs already do, free tap water is continued to be provided to patrons of the Club but that grossly unreasonable demands should be resisted. Should a party of 20 for instance order two coffees and 18 waters then this could clearly be resisted not only as an unreasonable demand but also by the virtue that clearly 18 of the 20 people were not in fact customers. Since no case of this nature has ever reached the High Court, this advice is based on the wording of the legislation.
We recommend that if any Clubs have any doubts over an offer or planned promotion that you contact your local Licensing Authority and seek clarificaiton on their view of your proposed event. However, it it important to remember that 'Happy Hours' are still legal as are drinks promotions which are undertaken responsibly. The ACC will be happy to assist any Club which finds itself dealing with an overbearing Local Authority.