Bottomless brunches and other bottomless alcohol promotions have become popular.  However, licensees must be careful not to breach the conditions on their licence when offering these promotions.

What is permitted?

Each and every premises licence is subject to certain mandatory licence conditions.  Under schedule 1 of The Licensing Act 2003 (Mandatory Licensing Conditions) Order 2010, the following is prohibited:

“…an irresponsible promotion means any one or more of the following activities, or substantially similar activities, carried on for the purpose of encouraging the sale or supply of alcohol for consumption on the premises in a manner which carries a significant risk of leading or contributing to crime and disorder, prejudice to public safety, public nuisance, or harm to children–

  1. a) games or other activities which require or encourage, or are designed to require or encourage, individuals to–
  2. i) drink a quantity of alcohol within a time limit (other than to drink alcohol sold or supplied on the premises before the cessation of the period in which the responsible person is authorised to sell or supply alcohol), or
  3. ii) drink as much alcohol as possible (whether within a time limit or otherwise);
  4. b) provision of unlimited or unspecified quantities of alcohol free or for a fixed or discounted fee to the public or to a group defined by a particular characteristic (other than any promotion or discount available to an individual in respect of alcohol for consumption at a table meal, as defined in section 159 of the Act)”

On the face of it, this appears to suggest that bottomless promotions are unlawful.  However, the Order also states that there must be an element of “significant risk of leading or contributing to crime and disorder, prejudice to public safety, public nuisance, or harm to children” associated to the bottomless drink promotion.

Running a promotion

If you want to run a promotion offering bottomless alcohol, it is important that this is done and managed properly to avoid any premises licence reviews or other issues. 

  1. Ensure the way the promotion is communicated and advertised is done responsibly so that customers understand the need to enjoy the promotion responsibly.
  2. The promotion should be subject to some kind of fair use policy and the business must retain the right to refuse alcohol to anyone who appears to be intoxicated and who may be causing issues.
  3. Promotions should ideally be time limited. This makes good commercial sense but is also good due diligence so that the provision of alcohol is not “unlimited or unspecified quantities of alcohol”.
  4. If any such promotion appears to be causing crime, disorder of nuisance at your premises, you should consider whether to cease the promotion or change it. If not, it could be argued that it is an irresponsible promotion that can result in a review or a prosecution pursuant to section 136 of the Licensing Act 2003.

Licensing Defence Barristers can advise you on the legality of any promotions of this kind and also provide advice and representation should your premises licence be subject to a review or prosecution.

Stephen McCaffrey

Regulatory defence barrister specialising in alcohol and entertainment licensing law, appeals and defence.

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