One way to maximise profits in these challenging times is to provide entertainment at your premises.  Be it a theme night, karaoke, a disco or a live band it all helps attract customers and boost takings.  The Government recognises that it is important for pubs, hotels and other hospitality businesses to diversify their offer and access new markets.

This has driven a proposal to further deregulate live and recorded music in alcohol licensed premises.  The Government is currently consulting on its proposed measures which are expected to come into force as early as April 2014.  While the new measures won’t help you plan for this Christmas they are very good news for the industry for the future.

Amplified and unamplified live music
In October 2012 the Government started the process of deregulation when it introduced the Live Music Act 2012.  This allows:

  • amplified live music to be played to an audience of less than 200 people between 8am and 11pm
  • unamplified live music to be played between 8am and 11pm to an unlimited audience

– both without the need for a licence, as long as the venue is licensed for the sale of alcohol for consumption on the premises (i.e. a pub, club, restaurant or bar) and where alcohol is on sale during the performance.  Performances which do not meet these conditions, such as DJs and recorded music, still require a licence.

These are the rules which will apply this Christmas.

The Government has issued helpful guidance on the changes made by the Live Music Act 2012 particularly in relation to the suspension of licence conditions and the application of the provisions to beer gardens. See chapter 15 here. 

Further deregulation of live and recorded music in licensed premises
Further deregulation (coming into force during 2014) is proposed in the new Legislative Reform Order which will:

  • increase the current audience limit for amplified live music from 200 to 500 without the need for a licence; and
  • allow recorded music to be played in alcohol licensed premises between 8am and 11pm where the premises are open for the consumption of alcohol and where the audience does not exceed 500 people.

Where live/recorded music is played which meets these conditions all licence conditions relating to the playing of music are suspended.  In order to meet public order concerns however, the licensing authority may reactivate such conditions or impose new ones on a review of the premises licence.  Conditions can be imposed in support of the licensing objectives which include the prevention of crime and disorder and public nuisance.  A review can be requested by the licensing authority, the police or the public and is a very serious for an operator.  Failure to comply with licence conditions can result in closure of the premises and a fine or prison sentence for the operator.

These are important changes which will enable operators to extend their offering with the minimum of regulation.  The new Legislative Reform Order will only apply to England and Wales and not to Scotland or Northern Ireland.

What about the noise?
The main problem with hosting a live band or running a karaoke night is that it is easy to upset your neighbours with the noise and this can lead to bad relations, a licence review and fines.  It is better to manage the situation and control noise levels before they become unacceptable to neighbours and you fall foul of the law.  The many legal provisions which aim to combat noise nuisance still apply despite the new Live Music Act.

Local residents can make complaints against outlets about late night noise which can be acted on immediately.  Following a complaint about noise after 11pm a Local Authority can immediately issue a Warning Notice which comes into effect 10 minutes after it is issued.  “Premises” covers all land specified within the licence and could include land within the curtilage of the premises – which is the outdoor area.  Noise from customers chatting loudly past 11pm in the beer garden or outdoor area even after the live music has finished could be covered by this.

If the noise continues to exceed permitted levels then a £500 fixed penalty can be given.  If the noises still continues then the licensee can be convicted and fined up to £5,000.

If your current licence has conditions attached to it which aim to limit noise, for example not allowing crowds to gather on the pavement outside, then it is be sensible to continue to observe these.

Be proactive – practical tips for keeping noise down

  • Keep doors and windows closed and use a mechanical ventilation system
  • Management should control noise levels not the DJ
  • Install a sound limiting/cut out device
  • Put up signs to remind customers to leave quietly
  • Control access to the outdoor area particularly at night
  • Don’t play music in the outdoor area
  • Control customers’ behaviour so that they do not make too much noise.

Responsibility for Staff
A pub, club or restaurant where live or recorded music is played has a duty under the Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005 to protect the hearing of all employees by keeping noise levels down to an acceptable level.

If noise levels exceed 80 decibels (daily or weekly average exposure) then as a service provider you have a duty to assess if there is any risk to health, and make hearing protectors available if requested.

If noise levels exceed 85 decibels (daily or weekly average exposure), you must ensure that hearing protectors are available AND are actually worn properly.  You should consider reducing amount of noise by installing sound limiting equipment, reducing the number of hours that staff are exposed to high levels of noise (for example during glass collection around the dance floor) and have as much soft furniture, curtains etc as possible to absorb the noise.

If you ignore the measures you risk a fine of up to £20,000 under the Noise Regulations and you also risk a personal injury claim from an employee who suffers damage to their hearing through work.

The Health and Safety Executive Sound Advice website has specific guidance for pubs and clubs including guidance on carrying out risk assessments and reducing noise levels.

HSE Website contains useful ready reckoners for calculating daily and weekly noise exposure.


For any questions about this article or noise control, please contact Janan at:
+44 (0) 345 271 6758

The content of this page is a summary of the law in force at the present time and is not exhaustive, nor does it contain definitive advice. Specialist legal advice should be sought in relation to any queries that may arise.