Getting your UK Café Licenced

Researching which Licences a Café needs can be difficult work, and with such a range of activities available to cafés, it can be even more difficult understanding the costs involved. Below, we discuss where to start with your new Café or Coffee Shop, and which licences to look into first.

At John Gaunt & Partners, business licences are our speciality. If you need to speak to a member of our team about your licensing needs, you can reach out to us through our Contact Form now, or get in touch directly by calling 0114 266 8664 or emailing

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The first step in creating a café or coffee shop business is to register it. 

Register as a food business

Cafés and coffee shops often sell both food and drink. As such, you must register as a Food Business with your local authority. We recommend registering with your local authority at least 28 days before you open. This allows time for the authority to process your paperwork.

You must register with the correct local authority. For instance, if you plan to open your café in Sheffield, register through the Sheffield City Council website, or contact our team who can register your business for you. When registering your business, it is important to ensure that it is done through the local authority that your business is based under.

If you’re unsure of which local authority your business falls under, use the local council finder to find out. If there are any circumstances around registering your business that you are unsure of, consider contacting the John Gaunt & Partners team today for guidance and advice.

What licences do you need to open a Café or Coffee Shop in the UK?

There are a number of licences and certificates you must consider before you open:

1. Premises Licence

If you wish to sell hot food or hot drinks after 11pm, or serve alcohol at any time at your Café or Coffee Shop (for instance, champagne with an afternoon tea), you must get a Premises Licence.

When applying for your Premises Licence, it is important that you assign a Designated Premises Supervisor (DPS). Your DPS should be someone who is often available at the premises, for instance, a manager.

Your Premises Licence is one of, if not the most important licence for your café. As such you should consider every aspect of your business as required by the licence, and answer with as much detail as possible. Here are the elements of the licence you will need to consider:

The Operating Schedule of your Café or Coffee Shop

The Operating Schedule of your Café or Coffee Shop forms the foundation of your Premises Licence. To begin, you should go into detail about how you will promote the following licensing objectives:

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

This section of your Licence is vitally important, and can affect the capabilities and limitations of your business if filled out incorrectly.

If you need any support understanding or filling out the Operating Schedule and/or the licensing objectives, please contact the John Gaunt & Partners team today. With years of licensing experience across all business types, we can help you gain a good understanding of the Premises Licence application and what you should include within it.

Café or Coffee Shop Hours of Operation

Knowing your hours of operation can be trickier than you would expect, especially when you consider future licensable activities. That’s why it’s important to understand how you want your business to operate before filling out this section of the application.

At John Gaunt & Partners, our experience of licensing cafes, coffee shops and more, puts us in a unique position to understand your needs. In working with us to complete your application, you will receive suggestions, support and recommendations to make sure you aren’t missing out on potentially lucrative opportunities.

Are you entitled to work within the UK?

Being eligible to work in the UK is a necessary part of Premises Licence completion and ownership. As such, you may be required to participate in an immigration status check. If you are found to not be eligible, you will be required to complete documentation allowing you to work in the UK, before you can proceed to own your Premises Licence.

Acquiring the consent of your Café or Coffee Shop Designated Premises Supervisor

Your Designated Premises Supervisor is an important cog in the running of your legally licensed business, and as such having their consent is a necessary part to completing your Premises Licence application.

The operational plan to your Cafe/Coffee Shop

Provide a detailed plan of how your Cafe/Coffee Shop will be laid out, including space that is used outside of the building. Consider and include these elements:

  • What are the property boundaries of your business?
  • Where are the premises entrances and exits located?
  • Where are the toilets on your premises? Mark all of them if you have multiple
  • Do you have multiple floors? Mark out all staircases, including individual steps
  • Include all fire escapes
  • The locations where Licensable activities will be performed (for instance you may host an open mic evening at your location, this would be classed as a Licensable activity)
  • Are there areas in your premises that are raised?
  • Do you have any safety equipment on your premises? Where is it located?
  • Consider if your premises has any other area that you think needs to be marked

When marking out your Licensable area, do so in red pen to make it clear, and consider when doing so how you will maximise your space for trading against your other licensable activities and space for customers. If you require support in this, John Gaunt & Partners are well versed in helping customers mark out and make the most of their operational plan.

Issues you may face when filling out your Café or Coffee Shop Premises Licence

Your Premises Licence is one of the most important Licences you will attain for your business. As such, it is highly recommended that you acquire experienced aid from a licensing professional.


When you complete your licence, you may find that objections have been raised against it. In this circumstance, your application will go to a Local Licensing Committee, who will review it. At this point you may be required to defend your Licence decisions in front of the committee, which may slow down the process of you opening your business.

Alongside the Local Licensing Committee, your application will be reviewed by Responsible Authorities, like the Fire Office, Environmental Health, and the Police. They will offer suggestions and feedback on your application. If the feedback is not in-line with your expectations, you may also be required to defend your interests there as well.


If you are found to have acted outside of your licence, you may be at risk of a revocation. If your licence is revoked, it could mean that you will need to close your business until an investigation has passed. During this time, you may need to defend your activities to authorities.

Receive Expert Advice Representation

It is important that in circumstances where your Premises Licence is objected to or your activities require defending, you get professional help and advice from a Licensing expert.

At John Gaunt & Partners, our team of experts have a wealth of experience in helping you complete your licence application. This is an important first step, as the correct understanding and noting down of your business operations can help prevent any potential future objections. On top of our team being able to help you complete your form as smoothly as possible, we may also suggest preparations for future licensable activities, or help you make the most of your opening hours, which can ultimately play a large part in increasing your revenue stream.

We can also provide experienced representation for you to help defend your licence application, in the situation that Responsible Authorities or the Local Licensing Committee have any objections. This will put you in the strongest position for a successful outcome.

Representation is also provided to businesses who are at risk of having their licence revoked. Our team of professionals are available to defend your interests.

If you require the aid of experienced professionals in licensing law, reach out to our team now. We can guide and offer advice throughout the Premises Licensing process, and offer you the best chance of a successful application. To get in touch, call us directly on 0114 266 8664 or email Alternatively, you can also reach out to us through our contact form today.

2. Personal Licence

Your local council will issue a Personal Licence upon a successful application. This licence is a necessity for any Café or Coffee Shop that wishes to sell alcohol, and works in tandem with your Premises Licence.

During the application process, you will assign your Personal Licence to your DPS. It is vital that you assign the Licence to your DPS before you sell any alcohol on the premises.

Your DPS must then pass a DBS check to prove that they are eligible to hold this licence. Alongside this, they must not have forfeited a Personal Licence within the past five years. If they have forfeited their licence in that time, they will not be eligible to receive another until the five years have passed.

Personal Licence holders must also hold an accredited qualification, such as an Award for Personal Licence Holders (APLH), or similar. These qualifications are vital to holding a Personal Licence, and as such, you will find APLH qualifications are available through John Gaunt & Partners training page.

If you are based in Scotland and hoping to acquire a Personal Licence, we also provide SCPLH courses too.

While you consider APLH qualifications, consider also the qualifications that will benefit you and your staff at your Café or Coffee Shop. At John Gaunt & Partners, we also offer Customer Service, Allergen Awareness and Food Safety courses, all important elements in running a successful customer-facing business like a Café.

This is the last Licence needed before you can legally sell alcohol. If you're unsure about the application processes for Personal or Premises Licences, reach out to our expert team today. We offer professional guidance on all things licensing.

3. Music Licence 

Most Cafés and Coffee Shops play music to provide a relaxing atmosphere for the customer. If you require music in your business, we recommend you get a Music Licence.

PPL and PRS handle music and Music Licences in businesses. PPL acts as the distributor of music licence fees for the use of recorded music for record companies and performers. PRS handles the music licence fees for the use of musical compositions and lyrics. Together, PPL and PRS ensure that musicians and record companies get compensation for the use of their music. 

Consider a Music Licence for your Café or Coffee Shop if:

  • You wish to host live music or live music events. This can range from local musicians to DJ sets and more.
  • If you play recorded music in any form. This can be through Spotify, CDs, TV Music Channels and any other medium.

If you need support with your Music Licences, consider reaching out to the John Gaunt team. Our licensing experts have years of experience helping businesses take their first steps.

4. Pavement Licence

A Pavement Licence is one of the most important licences a Cafe or Coffee Shop can acquire, allowing you to expand your business potential through outdoor advertising and furniture.

What is a pavement licence?

A Pavement Licence is necessary for Cafés and Coffee Shops that have outdoor seating. Outdoor seating can help to further expand the customer capacity of their business. 

To get a Pavement Licence, you must apply for it through your local authority's website. The Local Authority considers all Pavement Licences to be temporary. As such, you may find you have a short-term Licence available for only three months, which is the minimum. This is because the council and public consideration group must consider public highway maintenance and accessibility needs. 

In general, though, unless there are special circumstances to consider around the placement of furniture outside of your Café or Coffee Shop, the local authority will often grant a licence that lasts for 12 months, or up to the 30th September 2023 (whichever is shorter).

Once the consultation period has passed and you receive your licence, you can set the following furniture, within the boundaries of your licence, outside:

  • Counters and stalls - serve your food and drink from these
  • Shelving, which is ideal for Fast Food, or tables, which are ideal for Cafés
  • Seating for your tables, such as chairs and benches
  • Other furniture that can improve the experience of outdoor food or drink consumption. This can include items like heaters, barriers, parasol umbrellas, and more.

A consideration when using a Pavement Licence - all furniture must be moveable. Your local authority will determine what counts as a permanent fixture or not.

This area of law varies from region to region, and can be quite complex. Therefore we recommend speaking to a Licensing professional like John Gaunt & Partners, who can help you secure a pavement licence that suits your needs.

5. Company Registration

The starting point for all businesses is to register with Companies House. This certifies your café as a legal business. To register with Companies House, you must first create an account. From there, follow the steps, providing the appropriate business information where required.

Alternatively, if you are setting up your cafe or coffee shop as a sole trader, you must register your business through the HMRC website.

How much do Licences cost for a Café or Coffee Shop?

Licence costs for a Café or Coffee Shop can change depending on whether you'd like to sell alcohol, or where your business location is.

Premises Licence Costs

Premises Licence costs are dependent upon a range of factors, including your property's fee band. This means your application fee for a licence can range from £100 to £635 depending on its rateable value. You will also need to think about the costs of advertising your application. This involves making sure that your application is available to view at your premises, as well as in the local press. 

At John Gaunt & Partners, our agent can help you secure a cheaper rate for your local press advertising. For more information on our agent, or other Premises Licence costs, get in touch today.

Personal Licence Costs

The initial Personal Licence application process costs £37. Be aware that you will need to provide an up-to-date criminal background check when you apply for this licence. Speak to the DBS if you need to update your criminal background check. This should cost £36+VAT.

You must also think about the costs of training when looking at your Personal Licence.The APLH courses we offer at John Gaunt & Partners cost only £120+VAT, are easy to apply for and can be completed through our eLearning portal. Following the successful completion of the course material, we will be in touch to provide you with exam dates.

A one-stop-shop option is also available with us, allowing you to complete the course and Personal Licence bundle in one go, with one cost. We also provide guidance throughout, so can offer support with the course itself, as well as help you make the most of your Personal Licence. Rest assured, our team will also secure a DBS check for your DPS also, making this option incredibly quick and easy for you and your business.

Pavement Licence Costs

Local Authorities decide the fee for Pavement Licences, so they can vary. Pavement Licences currently have an application fee cap of £100.

There are many pitfalls when costing up licences which can disrupt budgets. If you are unsure of costing up your licences, get in touch with the John Gaunt & Partners Team today.

Do businesses have to display Food Hygiene Ratings?

You do not need to display your Food Hygiene Rating if your business is in England. If you live in Northern Ireland or Wales though, you must display your Food Hygiene Rating sticker. 

It is often considered good practice to have a Food Hygiene Rating certificate, regardless of whether you are legally required to have one. They provide essential information to the customer, showing that your business treats hygiene seriously, which can help to increase footfall.

There is nothing you need to do to receive a food hygiene rating. Local Authorities plan a programme of inspections each year to assess local businesses. Nonetheless, you should take into consideration how a food hygiene rating may affect your business.

For more information on Food Hygiene Ratings, or if you wish to make an appeal, get in touch today.

Do you need support with your Café or Coffee Shop licences?

Filling out any of the above licence applications incorrectly could result in fines or even the closure of your business. That’s why it is important that you take the time to understand what is required when filling out each application, and always speak to a professional if you need guidance.

At John Gaunt and Partners, we specialise in Licensing across all business types, to help you get the best possible results. Reach out to our team of professionals today, or contact our Head Office by calling 0114 266 8664 or emailing

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