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.

It is also an issue if plan outdoor events involving music – to safeguard your licence you should remember the following:


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

If local residents make complaints against outlets about late night noise (louder than the permitted level and after 11pm) these 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 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 and if this continues 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 essential to continue to observe these. 

Live Music

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.

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.

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
  • 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

And don’t forget your employees. 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.

What you need to do:

  • If noise levels exceed 80 decibels (daily or weekly average exposure) you will 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 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 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.