With the summer season in full swing, many customers at pubs, bars and restaurants are keen to make use of outdoor areas for eating and drinking. Noise becomes an issue as beer gardens and street seating are more likely to be in use, particularly if customers hang around to chat after closing time.  Noise is also an issue if you plan to hold outdoor events involving music.

To safeguard your licence you should remember the following:

Live music and licences

If you plan to host live music events during the Summer months whether indoors or outside you must find out whether or not you need to apply for a licence to host the event and how best to control the resulting noise levels.

The Live Music Act 2012 allows:

  • amplified live music to be played to an audience of less than 500 people between 8am and 11pm
  • recorded music to be played to an audience of less than 500 people between 8am and 11pm
  • unamplified live music to be played between 8am and 11pm to an unlimited audience

Music within these limits is allowed without the need for a licence, as long as the venue is licensed for the sale of alcohol for consumption on the premises (so likely to be a pub, club, restaurant or bar) and where alcohol is on sale during the performance.  Whether or not your entertainment is licensable or is authorised by your licence you still have a duty not to cause nuisance (see below).

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.

NB Where music is recorded (rather than live) but you have a DJ and/or dancing you will need to pay a PPL tariff depending on the number of people present – see MORE

Neighbours, complaints and fines

It is clearly better to manage noise levels before they become unacceptable to neighbours and you fall foul of the law, which may lead to a licence review and/or fines.

If local residents make complaints against your outlet about late night noise (louder than the permitted level and after 11pm) this can be acted on immediately.  Following a complaint 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 your garden or 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 a £500 fixed penalty can be given and if this continues you can be convicted as licensee and fined up to £5,000. If your current licence has conditions attached which aim to limit noise – for example not allowing crowds to gather on the pavement outside – it is clearly essential that you 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 – this is not just down to the DJ
  • Have 2 sets of doors to create a noise lobby
  • 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
  • Control customers’ behaviour to minimise noise.
  • Stop music at the time required – i.e. 11pm
  • Carry out your own noise monitoring checks and record results to show Environmental Health or police if necessary.

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.