Licensing a Restaurant in the UK

Starting and operating a restaurant in the UK is certainly a challenge. Alongside finding the staff to cook and serve your customers, ensuring business finance is taken care of and making sure that you’re attracting people to your restaurant, you must have the right licences in place to legally run a restaurant.

This page will look at the different licences required in order to run a restaurant, including the sale of food and alcohol. If you’re in urgent need of licensing advice for your restaurant, contact us directly through 0114 266 8664 or

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Which licences does a restaurant need in the UK?

If you’re looking to open a restaurant in the UK, your potential customers are probably expecting your restaurant to provide quality food, a range of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, and potentially entertainment.

In order to sell food and alcohol, and provide entertainment, your restaurant must have certain licences in place which permit you to do so.

Here are the 7 Key points that you must consider if you want to own a restaurant in the UK.

1. Register as a food business

Once you have become a registered company with Companies House, you must register as a food business with your local authority.

For example, if your business was based in Sheffield, you must register to become a food business by going through the Sheffield county council website. Please be sure to register your business with the local council that oversees the location your business is based. Use the local council finder if you are unsure of which local authority you belong to.

A business must be registered as a food business with their local council at least 28 days before opening. Please get in touch with our team if you need assistance registering as a food business.

2. Premises licence

It’s important to know that an alcohol licence isn’t a single licence that you can obtain to sell alcohol in your restaurant.

You need two licences in order to sell alcohol in your restaurant, a premises licence and a personal licence.

A premises licence is a licence that is needed to sell alcohol and provide entertainment, as well as offer hot food after 11pm.

This is the licence which belongs to your business premises, and allows alcohol to be sold by your premises.

To be granted your Premises Licence, it is vital that you take note of the factors that will be asked of you during the application process. Consider these factors:

Your Operating Schedule

The Operating Schedule forms the basis of your licensing agreement, so making sure it is accurate is vital to helping you maintain your Premises Licence.

Your Operating Schedule should detail how you will promote the licensing objectives:

  • The prevention of crime and disorder 
  • Public safety
  • The prevention of public nuisance
  • The protection of children from harm 

This is a highly important section of the application, as it will form part of your licence. 

John Gaunt & Partners are highly experienced at understanding our clients operations and needs, and can assist you in submitting an application to ensure that your end licence is fit for purpose and enables you to operate how you desire.

Hours of operation

On the application you must decide the hours of operation for all the licensable activities, these can potentially be the most contentious part of the application so it is important to consider these carefully. 

John Gaunt & Partners have expert and experienced advice to offer when discussing the pros and cons of your suggested hours, and can offer ways to maximise your potential success.

Proving that you are entitled to work in the UK

You must prove that you are eligible to work in the UK to obtain your Premises Licence, as well as prove you are subject to any conditions that prevent you from obtaining a Premises Licence. You may be required to take part in an immigration status check during this element of the process.

Acquire DPS consent

As the Designated Premises Supervisor (who needs to hold a personal licence) will handle all queries and communications in regards to your licences, it is necessary to get consent from them when applying for a Premises Licence.

Plan of your Premises

You must provide a detailed plan of your premises. Consider these elements:

  • Property boundaries
  • Exits and Entrances
  • Toilets
  • Staircases and steps
  • Fire Escapes and other escape routes
  • Licensable activity locations (for instance a bar, or a stage)
  • Raised areas within the premises
  • Safety Equipment
  • Any other part of the premises that requires special attention

The licensable area needs to be outlined in red on your plan, it is important to consider this carefully as to maximise your trading area and facilitate all of your licensable activities without jeopardising the success of your application. John Gaunt & Partners have a long history of helping on applications and can assist in this process.

Expert Premises Licence Advice

Pulling together and understanding the different elements of your Premises Licence can be difficult to do without expert advice, and is not recommended.

If your licence application is completed incorrectly, it can leave it open to objection. In this case, your application will be considered by the Local Licensing Committee, potentially delaying the opening of your new business.

If you accidentally miss elements off of your licence application and it is accepted, you are also potentially at risk. If your business is found to be acting outside of what your licence permits, you could have your business shut down and licence revoked. With this in mind, it is highly recommended that you utilise the expertise of professionals when filling out your application.

After applying for your licence, a range of Responsible Authorities including the Police, Fire Office, & Environmental Health will consider your application and often provide feedback. With our experience, John Gaunt & Partners can ensure that your best interests are always protected, especially when third parties such as the Police ask you to amend your application. We can help you decide whether such requests are reasonable or unreasonable, and what the less obvious consequence may be in agreeing on the same. 

At John Gaunt & Partners, we have a long history helping businesses make the most of their Premises Licence applications. Get in touch with us today through our contact form, or reach out directly through 0114 266 8664 or

If your application is due to appear before a Committee and you require representation, our team is also available to help. We will support your application on your behalf and give it the best possible chance of acceptance.

3. Personal Licence

A personal licence is the second licence that is needed for a restaurant to sell alcohol.

A personal licence allows the holder to sell alcohol, or authorise the sale of alcohol in a licenced venue or premises. Not all members of your business need to hold a personal licence to sell alcohol, however, venues commonly only have one personal licence holder to oversee and authorise the sale of alcohol.

If you wish to be a Personal Licence holder, you must follow the correct process of applying for a personal licence. Firstly, you must also prove eligibility by passing a DBS check, and you must not have forfeited a Personal Licence within the past 5 years.

Personal Licence holders will also require an accredited qualification, along the lines of an Award for Personal Licence Holders (APLH) or similar. 

At John Gaunt & Partners we run a range of courses, including the APLH course which is available all year round.

If you are based in Scotland, we also offer an SCPLH course, which is needed to achieve your Personal Licence in Scotland.

Consider also the Allergen Awareness, Customer Service and Food Safety (Levels 1 to 3 available in Catering, Retail and Supervising Food Safety) eLearning Courses we offer when training staff for your restaurant.

View our Training Courses today

4. Pavement licence and A-Board Permits

It’s essential that your restaurant has a great ‘curb appeal’ and is noticeable within the crowded and competitive industry. One tactic restaurateurs commonly use is placing advertising boards and signs on the pavement outside their restaurant in order to get noticed.

Placing furniture outside the restaurant so people have somewhere to eat in the summer is also standard practice, however can be problematic if the correct licences have not been secured.

A pavement licence is key to doing this, and is granted by the local authority. It allows the licence holder to place removable furniture and signs over certain pavements outside of the premises.

Pavement licence fees are set by the local authority, but the application fee amount is currently capped at £100.

This area of law is complex and varies from region to region, so we advise getting in touch with a specialist licensing expert for help and advice on getting the most optimal pavement licence for your restaurant.

5. Become a registered company

This is standard practice for any business in the UK, including restaurants, however you must register as a limited company with Companies House.

The only exception to this is if you plan to run the restaurant as a sole trader, although you will need to register your business with HMRC.

6. Restaurant insurance

When you’re running a restaurant, restaurant insurance is vital to keeping your business protected from potential pitfalls. 

If someone gets hurt whilst inside your restaurant, ‘restaurant liability insurance’ will help make sure you’re covered. If your fridge or freezer breaks down, then the ingredients for your dishes may be wasted. ‘Deterioration of stock’ insurance can help you cover this cost.

There are a range of different insurance options to choose from, so weigh up which options are right for you when choosing restaurant insurance.

7. Music licence

In order to play music at your restaurant, you will need to have a music licence.

You need a music licence if your restaurant:

  • Plays any kind of recorded music, such as a CD, Spotify, radio or music channel
  • Has a stage with live music events

Get in touch with our friendly team today for more information on how to obtain a music licence.

How much does it cost to get a restaurant licenced?

This figure depends on what your restaurant does, as this affects which licences you require.

The application fee payable to the local authority for a personal licence is £37, however you must also have a current DBS check which costs £36+VAT.

Consider the costs of your APLH training when applying for a Personal Licence as well. Training directly through John Gaunt & Partners costs only £120 + VAT per person, and our comprehensive eLearning offering makes it easy for your DPS to learn at their own pace. We will be in touch following the initial enquiry to arrange the online examination date.

We also work with clients to offer a ‘one-stop-shop’ which offers the APLH training course and Personal Licence application at one flat rate. The benefit of doing it this way is that it ultimately streamlines the process by helping you not only get the required training, but also utilises the expertise of our team to obtain a DBS Check, along with drafting and submitting your Personal Licence, ensuring you get your licence in a timely manner.

The application fee for a premises licence, which is payable to the local authority, ranges from £100 and £1905 depending on the Premise's rateable value. You are also required to advertise your application at the premises and in the local press, we use an agent which can secure significant discounts on going direct to the press. An indication of our fees in relation to assisting you in getting the Premises Licence can be viewed on our ‘Premises Licence Costs’ page but please get in touch with John Gaunt & Partners, and once we know your exact requirements we can give you a more accurate indication of how much your premises licence will be.

What is the difference between a licenced restaurant and an unlicenced restaurant?

An unlicenced restaurant is typically a restaurant where you cannot purchase alcohol on the premises, whereas you can purchase alcohol at a licenced restaurant.

Need help getting the right licences for your restaurant?

Getting your restaurant licenced can be tricky to navigate, and making a slight error on one of the many applications could hinder the type of licence you receive. 

To get the best possible licence for your restaurant or to discuss representation, get in touch with our team today, or reach out directly by calling our Head Offices on 0114 266 8664, or emailing our team at We’ll help you get the best possible licences for your business.