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Changes to food sales licensing regime in Scotland

Supermarkets, garages and corner shops may not be able to sell food after 11pm in Scotland when new rules come into force on 1 October 2012. A change to the Late Hours Catering Licence (LHCL) regulations could mean that all food sellers will need a licence from that date. 

The LHCL currently says that any seller of "meals or refreshments" that doesn't already hold an alcohol licence needs a LHCL to sell to the public between 11pm and 5am. The regulations will change in October and will refer to "food" instead of "meals or refreshments". The changes are made to the Civic Government (Scotland) Act.  It will still be up to local authorities to decide whether or not food premises should be licensed.

These changes will mean that shops selling soft drinks or packets of crisps will be caught by a law that previously only applied to those selling meals. Those operating without a licence may be fined.

The change could also impact those with an alcohol licence. While they are excluded from the effect of the Act, it is unclear whether this applies only to the licensed hours. For example, if a supermarket is licensed to sell alcohol from 10am to 10pm but trades till midnight a LHCL may also be needed to continue to sell food.  The interpretation varies from area to area. 

Food retailers must act quickly. The deadline for lodging LHCL applications is 30 September 2012.   Application is made to the local authority in whose area the premises are situated and the exact procedure may differ from area to area. Notice of the application must be made at the premises. 

The Police, Environmental Health, Planning, local Councillor and local Community Council will be consulted on any application and if there are objections there will be hearing at which the applicant can be represented. The local authority has power to refuse the application, grant it or impose conditions on the grant of the licence, for example restricting trading hours.