Preston council gives private social club owners green light to reopen

Premises holding a club premises certificate are now able to serve alcoholic drinks to members without an accompanying meal despite the current tier three restrictions, the Post can reveal.

Thursday, 29th October 2020, 10:10 am
The New Meadow Street club, North Road, has reopened for members

A number of working men's clubs and social clubs in Preston can now reopen and serve alcohol to their members without a substantial meal.

Despite the borough being under tier three lockdown restrictions, guidance on the Preston City Council website states that clubs can open their doors and serve alcoholic drinks, without a meal under their club premises certificate.

The Lancashire Post understands that under the existing coronavirus legislation, volunteer and social clubs are able to open and serve alcohol without a 'substantial' meal - unlike pubs and bars currently.

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Last Friday, October 23, the New Meadow Street labour club, North Road, announced that they would be reopening from lunchtime for members only, which was met with some confusion.

Closing just four days earlier under the new Tier three restrictions, secretary Mick Metcalf posted: "I would just like to thank all bar staff, waiters, glass collectors, cleaners, officials and committee for all their hard work over these difficult times and most of all, the loyal members who kept the club going. Stay safe and I will hopefully see you all soon."

And following suit was Alan Hamilton, chairman of St Gregory's Social Club, Blackpool road, after he challenged Preston city council on their 'unclear' and 'hidden' guidance.

He said: "I was informed that on the council website, it stated that club premises with the certificate could sell alcohol without a substantial meal. It seemed contradictory after the news that all licensed clubs were told to close on October 19 because of tier three.

Alcohol can only be served to club members under the new council guidelines

"I got mixed messages from the council so I asked them if it was true that we could begin operating again, where they gave me clarification that I could still open, with table service, serving alcohol to our members only.

"I thought it was great and it is welcome news, but many of our members who are elderly are still too apprehensive to come out because of the virus, which means our numbers aren't coming back as high as we had first expected.

"We are exempt from any support grants because as a club of the church, we don't pay business rates and I suspect, at this current trend, we will close at some point before Christmas unless we get the revenue up - but it was still great news that we could open because it keeps us going. We are an important part of the community."

Alan criticised the council for failing to advertise the news to social club owners after he found out the news from a friend - many of which contacted him after his reopening announcement.

St Gregory's social club has also reopened and is serving alcohol to members only

The council tweeted that "all licensed clubs, the adult gaming industry, casinos, bingo halls, bookmakers and betting shops, and soft play areas must close" on October 16.

In August, St Gregory's was on the brink of closure as Alan kickstarted a Just Giving page to raise funds to keep the community hub alive.

He added: "We can now sell alcohol without the need for a substantial meal, but our club premises certificate only permits us to sell alcohol to our members and not to the general public."

Councillor Peter Moss, Deputy Leader and Cabinet member for planning and regulation, said: “Where a premises holds a ‘Club Premises Certificate’ under the Licensing Act 2003, (part 4, from para 60) The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Local COVID-19 Alert Level) (Very High) (England) Regulations 2020, does not apply.

"They do not need to close and they do not need to provide a substantial meal to club members, but any guests being brought into the Club by members can only purchase alcohol with a substantial meal.

"They should, of course, follow general COVID-19 good practice on matters such as social distancing, the wearing of face coverings, and regular hand washing.

“Premises that hold a ‘Club Premises Certificate’ and that also hold a ‘Premises License’ to sell alcohol for functions etc., must follow the above health protection regulations; i.e. they may only serve alcohol under their premises license if it is to accompany a substantial meal.

“That information has been on the council’s website since it was updated it on 20th October, after the latest set of Tier 3 Regulations were announced.”

A Club Premises Certificate is a specific licence, which is exclusively for licensed members clubs, and authorises a club to supply alcohol to members, their guests, and the provision of regulated entertainment, including plays, films, indoor sports, music and dancing.

Under the Licensing Act 2003, a Premises Licence is required for the sale or supply of alcohol, dancing, and the supplying of hot food or drink between 11pm and 5am if the venue is open to the general public - under the regulations the sale of alcohol has to come alongside a substantial meal.

But a Club Premises Certificate is issued to a private members club where there is no profit element in the running of a private members club.

In order to be a qualifying club in relation to the supply of alcohol, a club must satisfy a number of conditions including a period of at least two days between application and admittance for new members and follow a formal membership system, with at least 25 members.

Under Lancashire's tier three restrictions, pubs and bars that don't serve food are still closed.

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