Licensing Act 2003 – Public Entertainment Licences.


A new set of laws has just been passed, controlling public entertainment – widescreen TVs are exempt, but the traditional gig with ‘two musicians in a bar’ now needs a licence. 


So what are my thoughts on the new laws for the licencing of entertainment ? :


I read the original white paper some time ago (as supplied by an environmental and health officer, whose one comment was that he had quite enough powers already to do his job, and did not need any more).


My overall view is, in short, that it is an exercise in taking the discretion on such matters from the local judiciary and local authorities, and moving it to central government. This always seems a good idea to a party in power; they just forget that history says they are not likely to remain in power for a thousand years.


The interpretation of the new law will be subject to guidelines that are still to be formulated by central government, and until we see them, we do not know how they will be applied, nor what the licencing fees will be. It seems the Scots do not need such a law.


So what is permitted and what is not ? – I have had a preliminary read of the new Act, and am still very unclear – first there is a link to the actual full official document, then to an official view of the act, followed by a personal view.


Licensing Act 2003 – Public Entertainment Licences.

Contents page :

Official overview :

To help me understand it, I have cut and pasted those bits of the Act of Parliament that seem relevant to my own purposes, and that may be of use to those holding barn dances, club or pub gigs, and similar small musical events.

Please use this with caution - I have no legal knowledge; follow the links to the full text, and take legal advice where appropriate.

Small user PEL.


In summary, it seems one can have music at a garden fete (etc. ???), or in conjunction with an act of worship, or on a boat, bus or train, or as long as you have a morris team (or similar ???) along, as long they are not for profit (even for charity). There may be a problem with a barn dance for members of the public, I am afraid I can not untangle that, it probably depends on the interpretation we get from central government. It may be that Barn and Cajun dancing may be regarded as 'similar to morris dancing', in which case no licence is needed if alcohol is not being supplied. If in doubt, one answer may be to enroll everyone coming as a menber of a club (but this must be done at least 48 hours in advance of the event), or a temporary event notice can be applied for (at least 10 days in advance).


As I read it, un-amplified music such as a celtic session may not need to satisfy the full range of conditions, but still needs a licence. I have not as yet managed to unpick the full set of rules for small pub or club gigs, other than that ‘small’ now means less than 200 people, so pubs that hold 20 people no longer have to satisfy rules for 500, and it seems the main requirements will be limited to just those that would already apply to the premises.

If publicans ask for a music license when they convert their existing licences to the new form, the cost (as yet unspecified) should be minimal, and we may see even more music in pubs.


I for one would be glad to see the back of the ‘two musicians in a bar’ rule, provided it does not en effect turn into a ‘no musicians in a bar’ rule. My worry for some time has been that with the two rule, you get two musicians of roughly equal calibre playing – where then is the apprentice musician to learn his trade ? We can but hope that the guidelines lead to more music not less.


KentFolk. 2003-8-16,23.