Licensing for Competitive Socialising Venues

Competitive socialising encompasses a range of activities which you will need to take into account as you collect licences for a new business, or make changes to existing licences. Because of the scope of competitive socialising businesses and how they can be combined with other premises types too, there may be licensing requirements involved that you’re unaware of.

If you’re in urgent need of licensing advice around a competitive socialising premises, be sure to reach out to our team of licensing experts as soon as possible, to discuss options and licences that will work best for you. You can also email us directly at or call us on 0114 266 8664 today.

This page will look at the range of licences that may be required to open a new business that is either built around or is introducing a competitive socialising element.

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What is Competitive Socialising?

Competitive socialising generally refers to multiple people or groups, coming together on a premises to take part in a range of games or activities, often with food and drink. 

Elements of competitive socialising can be found across a range of premises, and as such it is important that these activities are reflected in your licence and suitably meet licensing objectives, or risk having your licence revoked, or licence application rejected. 

Examples of competitive socialising may include:

  • Escape Rooms
  • Axe Throwing
  • Darts
  • Pool or Snooker
  • Archery
  • Shuffleboard
  • Karaoke
  • Pub Quizzes
  • Crazy Golf
  • Virtual Golf

It is absolutely vital that you abide by the regulations of your premises licence whatever your business, but as some competitive socialising elements, such as axe throwing and archery, pose a risk to human life, you should take extra care to consider how you will meet your promotion of public safety objectives. 

It is also important to consider the relationship of the competitive socialising elements with the premises itself:

  • Is your competitive socialising activity adding to part of what the venue already offers, such as darts or a pool table in a pub? Are these reflecting in your licence? If these are temporary editions, does your licence allow for them as it currently stands?
  • Is your premises purpose built to act as a hub for competitive socialising? For instance, there are a growing number of operators that combine a range of activities like Shuffleboard, Darts, Pool, Karaoke, Crazy Golf, and more. You must consider how each of these activities will be accounted for within your premises licence, and also consider the licensing objectives, especially if the activities are accompanied by alcohol.

Think carefully about how you wish to approach activities that may pose a risk to human life, and make sure your licence informs on how you will mitigate any risk.

What licences do I need for a premises with competitive socialising activities?

If you’re looking to open a premises that either focuses solely on a competitive socialising activity, or has competitive socialising activities as part of the overall experience, there are a number of licences you should consider.

Here are the 7 key things you should do and licences you should obtain when starting your new competitive socialising business.

1. Premises Licence

A Premises Licence is the first and most important licence that your business will need if you wish to sell alcohol alongside your competitive socialising activities.

This is the first of two licences required to sell alcohol, and is the most complex of all the licences. Failure to keep to requirements laid out in your premises licence may result in the reckoning of your licence, your business being shut down, and penalties being given.

These factors should all be considered carefully when applying for a Premises Licence:

The Operating Schedule of your competitive socialising business

Your Operating Schedule must be accurate so you can maintain your Premises Licence.

During this part of the application, you will need to detail exactly how you will promote the following licensing objectives within your business:

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

This section of your Premises Licence application is absolutely vital, and a single error or mistake may have long-term ramifications for your business.

If you need support detailing your Operating Schedule, reach out to our team of experienced licensing solicitors today. We work with all types of venues to help them create the best Premises Licence for their needs.

Your hours of operation

Your hours of operation may seem obvious from a first glance, but getting this section right is very important for keeping your business running smoothly, and avoiding any internal issues that may arise through it being filled out incorrectly.

If you require support in understanding what hours of operation work best for your business, John Gaunt & Partners is here to help. We can offer expert advice to make sure you make the most of the opening hours available to you.

Prove you are eligible to work within the UK

At this point in the application process, an immigration status check may be required. This is because you must be able to prove that you are eligible to work within the UK.

Acquire DPS consent

You will need to designate a Designated Premises Supervisor (DPS) when applying for your Premises Licence. Your DPS will hold your Personal Licence (the second licence required to sell alcohol), and as such having their consent when filling out your Premises Licence application is a must. 

Please be sure when designating your DPS, that they are willing to handle communications around licensing when they arise.

Consider the plan for your premises

Your premises plan is an incredibly important part of your application, and is likely to be the most contested element of your application. As such, having a good understanding of where each of your licensable activities will take place is vital.

Consider these elements of your premises when filling out this part of your application:

  • What are the boundaries of your property? Is your competitive socialising element outdoors? Be sure to include the full boundary
  • Where are your tills and locations where transactions take place?
  • Where are the exits and entrances to your property? If you have outdoor activities, are customers restricted effectively to only using those exits and entrances?
  • Where are the toilets? Will customers need access to showers or changing rooms for their competitive socialising? Where are they?
  • Are there any staircases or steps that customers and staff will need to be aware of?
  • Where are your fire escapes? If your competitive socialising element is outside, are there designated fire zones?
  • What other licensable activities might there be? For instance, could a charity set up a stand on your premises?
  • Where are the raised sections both inside and outside your premises?
  • Competitive socialising may require specific safety equipment. Where is the equipment located?
  • Think of any other licensable activities that may be worth noting

Premises Licence considerations for different types of competitive socialising

Here we discuss some of the specific types of competitive socialising, and different things to look for with them when filling out your Premises Licence application. 

It is worth noting that a lot of competitive socialising activities are not regulated, so when filling out your premises licence application, you should put particular consideration into the promotion of public safety objectives. This is especially important for competitive socialising establishments that combine alcohol with physical activities like axe-throwing, archery, or golf.

Licensing an Escape Room premises

Escape Rooms are a fun way to implement competitive socialising into your already existing business, whether it be a cafe, restaurant/bar, or anything else. When creating your escape room theme though, consider how elements of that room may become a risk and need to be included in your premises plan. For instance, are you introducing new steps or raised areas? Are you introducing elements like sand to your room? Will that cover any areas where customers may trip and fall? Consider also that you may need to put or allow easy access to fire escapes in your rooms.

Licensing an Axe Throwing premises

Axe throwing is a relatively new form of competitive socialising, and can be exceptionally dangerous if not properly accounted for. Owners of a premises should consider how much alcohol, if any, has been consumed by customers seeking to undertake axe-throwing, and consider how they will meet the promotion of public safety licensing objectives.

Licence holders should also ensure that first aid kits and safety equipment are well-marked on their application. Licensable areas, for instance, the throwing range, should be well-defined on the premises plan, as well as the stored location for the axes.

Licensing for Darts within your premises

If you are just opening a new pub, or a venue that specialises in competitive socialising, you should consider noting down your designated area for darts playing (It should be away from where other customers sit), and where you will keep your darts when not in use. 

Will you keep your darts behind the bar, so only customers who are within a certain level of intoxication can handle them? Or will they be available for anyone to pick up?

Licensing a Pool or Snooker premises

Pool or snooker venues should ensure that they properly mark out the areas where pool or snooker tables will be found, with plenty of space between tables and away from seating. They should also make a note of where the pool cues are available, as well as balls and chalk.

Licensing an Archery premises

Archery can naturally be very dangerous, and much the same precautions need to be taken as with axe throwing. You must ensure that the archery range is properly designated, alongside the storage location of bows and arrows. You should also ensure that first aid and safety equipment is properly marked down.

Whether or not you sell alcohol in the same location that you have archery, consider assessing how you will meet the promotion of public safety objectives for your premises licence.

Licensing a Shuffleboard premises

Shuffleboard is a straightforward and relatively safe addition to any pub or bar. Owners who wish to include a shuffleboard table should consider leaving plenty of space for the table to go, and decide on where they want the shuffleboard equipment to be stored.

Licensing a Karaoke premises

Owners of karaoke bars or clubs should not only consider where they want the licensable activity to take place, but also the music licences required to perform that music. If you have a stage in your venue, be sure to label where it is, and whether it is raised/has steps up to it.

Licensing a Bowling premises

Bowling establishments should consider how they will label all of their licensable areas. Consider where the bowling lanes are, and make sure to list any first aid kits on the premises. Owners should also consider where their shoe rentals kiosk will be.

Licensing Pub Quizzes for your premises

Pub Quizzes are relatively straightforward as far as competitive socialising goes, but owners should consider where the announcer will stand, and if they have a microphone. This is because you may need to consider how a microphone cable draped along the floor will affect the staff and customer experience.

Licensing a Crazy Golf premises

Crazy Golf establishments may need to consider a few elements when looking into their premises licensing. For instance, they should consider whether they will be exclusively a crazy golf establishment, or whether they will sell alcohol and/or food. They should also consider the layout of their crazy golf courses, and ensure that any raised areas or steps are accounted for on the premises plan.

Licensing a Golf Simulator premises

Golf simulator establishments should also consider the extent of their business and update the premises plan accordingly, especially when it comes to food and alcohol. Considerations should be made towards the promotion of Public Safety objectives within their premises plan too, and consider how they might prevent injury from a golf swing, especially if alcohol is to be consumed on the property.

Get licensing advice for competitive socialising venues from the experts

If you are starting a competitive socialising establishment, or looking to implement competitive socialising into your already existing business, you should consider gaining the advice of an expert with your Premises Licence application. Common issues applicants run into are:

Passing the Local Licensing Committee Review

Premises licence applications for competitive socialising premises can have a larger chance of failure, due to the wide range of considerations that may come with certain activities. Whatever type of establishment you have though, your premises licence will always need to be put in front of a Local Licensing Committee. They hold the power to allow or reject your licence application. Consider that if your licence application is rejected, it will affect when your business can open.

Elements missing from the application

Competitive socialising businesses may have a lot of moving parts to them, especially if you have something like an escape room, which may change themes after a period of time. With this in mind, you will need to consider every aspect of your business and potential future aspects, as any deviation from your Premises Licence without proper updates could see your licence revoked.

Responsible Authorities

Applicants should also consider that their licence application will be reviewed by Responsible Authorities like Environmental Health, the Police, and the Fire Office. It can be tricky dealing with third parties, especially when they are an authority, and you may be pushed towards a licence change that you don’t agree with.

If you are struggling with any of the above issues, be sure to reach out to the John Gaunt & Partners team. We specialise in licensing law for a range of venue types across the UK, with the aim to help them create and make the most of their licences. You can reach us through a range of ways, including contact form, email and telephone.

John Gaunt & Partners will also represent you if your application goes to a Local Licensing Committee, or changes are requested by Responsible Authorities. We will support your licence application, and provide you with the best chance of having it accepted.

2. Personal Licence

If you wish to sell alcohol, acquiring personal licences for your DPS is necessary. This licence will allow the holder to authorise alcohol sales on the premises, and to sell alcohol themselves. Depending on the type of establishment you have alongside your competitive socialising space, you may have one or more DPS. It is worth noting that not all staff require a Personal Licence.

What do I need to get a Personal Licence?

If you wish to become a Personal Licence holder, or wish for members of your team to become Personal Licence holders, there a few points in the application that you should be aware of:

  • Anyone looking to attain a personal licence must pass a DBS check
  • Anyone looking to attain a personal licence must not have forfeited a personal licence within the past 5 years
  • Anyone looking to attain a personal licence must have an accreditation from an APLH course or similar

John Gaunt & Partners offer an APLH e-learning course which provides the proper accreditation for your future Personal Licence holders. Business owners and managers should also be aware that we offer courses on Customer Service, Allergen Awareness and Food Safety, all of which can be very helpful if you offer food and drinks alongside your competitive socialising activities.

View our Training Courses today

3. Register as a food business

A lot of businesses with competitive socialising elements also provide food to customers. If you are opening one such premises, you should register as a food business.

You should register as a food business with your local authority. For instance, if your business is located in Sheffield, you should register through the Sheffield City Council website. If you don’t know which council your new premises reside under, use the local council finder to find out.

Please be aware that it is recommended that you register as a food business at least 28 days before opening.

If you require any assistance in registering as a food business, please contact us today.

4. Pavement licences

If you wish to advertise the competitive socialising aspect of your business through an A-board, or wish for customers to enjoy food and drinks outside of your premises, you should apply for a Pavement Licence as soon as possible.

This licence allows you to place removable furniture in the designated area outside of your property, and as mentioned, is also commonly used to advertise your business through A-boards.

You must apply for a pavement licence through your local authority, with the application fee amount currently capped at £100.

Please be aware that this area of the law can be very complex, and varies between regions. With this in mind, we recommend discussing your pavement licence application with our team of specialist licensing experts, who will be able to help you achieve the optimal pavement licence for your business.

5. Become a registered company

Registering your business through Companies House is standard practice for most limited companies in the UK.

If you plan to run your business as a sole trader, you don't need to go through Companies House, but must register your business with HMRC.

Insurance for your business

Some competitive socialising activities pose a risk of danger to human life and property. With this in mind, we recommend looking into the following insurances:

  • Public Liability
  • Employers Liability
  • Contents Insurance

This list is not exhaustive, and as such you should make sure to get any insurance required to cover your needs.

Music licence

As mentioned above, a music licence is necessary if you plan to open a karaoke bar, and it is also highly relevant to restaurants, bars, and other venues too.

You will need a music licence if your business plays any kind of recorded music. This could include music from Spotify, a CD or Vinyl, a music channel, or the radio. You will also need a music licence if your venue has a stage with live music events.

Visit the PPL PRS website to obtain your music licence.

How much does it cost to get a business with competitive socialising elements licenced?

The overall sum of your licence costs depends heavily on what type of competitive socialising business you will run. Here is a rundown of a few of the costs you should consider:

Personal Licence Cost

£37 must be paid to the local authority to cover the application fee for a Personal Licence. You should also consider £36+VAT for the DBS check.

You should also consider the costs of APLH training. Through John Gaunt & Partners, APLH training costs only £120+VAT per person, and we offer an APLH Combined option too. This option provides the APLH training, DBS check, and submission of the Personal Licence application too, helping you to streamline the process and acquire your licence much faster.

If you are based in Scotland, SCPLH courses are also £120+VAT, and SCPLH Combined Courses are £338+VAT.

Premises Licence Cost

The application fee for your Premises Licence will cost between £100 to £1905, payable to the local authority, and dependent upon the premises’ rateable value.

You will also be required to advertise your application through the local press and on the premises itself. When advertising through the local press, you should consider utilising John Gaunt & Partner’s press agent, who can get your discounted rates on your press advertising.

For a good indication of the fee of your Premises Licence, our Premises Licence Costs page has more information. You can also reach out directly to our team, who will be able to help you cost up the Premises Licence amount once they have an understanding of the exact requirements for your business.

Need help or further information on your licence for a competitive socialising premises?

Getting licences for a premises can be tricky, and even more so when that premises will have elements of competitive socialising in it.

For help in acquiring all the licences your business will need, speak to our team today through our contact form, or email or telephone our head office.