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Licences and liability

15 December 2010

by Maggie Durran

Our church hall is due to be de­molished, and we want a com­pletely fresh start for our new community centre. Is there anywhere we can get up-to-date information about the various licences (and associated regulations) that we might require for alcohol, music, showing of films, food hygiene, etc.? Is there a community-centre association of some sort which could help?

MOST of the licensing information you need is, as you foresee, scat­tered in a variety of locations. Differ­ent departments of local authorities and statutory agencies may each have responsibility and may each admin­ister it with greater or lesser rigour.

First, as you imply, some of the rules for a church are different from those for a community hall or centre. For church events in the hall, you may need to have a temporary event notice or, for a busy hall, a premises licence. The local authority and the police will have input in granting such per­mission. And make sure that your insurance covers appropriate aspects of public liability for the hall as well as the church.

I have two sources that inform me on most things that I need to know. I have looked in the first to spell out the list of considerations. Managing Your Community Building, by Peter Hudson, is published by Community Matters, and can be downloaded free. (A community-centre manager once told me: “Maggie, this is my Bible,” indicating this book.)

Let me quote from it: “The sale of alcohol is not a charitable activity in pursuit of a charitable object, and therefore can only be an activity that is ‘incidental’ or ‘occasional’. The argument that the sales of alcohol create profit to assist the charity in its charitable work will not change the requirements of charity law, nor will it change the view of the Inland Revenue that profits from the sale of alcohol are liable to cor­poration tax.”

One of several kinds of licence is required. (By the way, you cannot give people alcohol in return for a dona­tion, or “free” with the ticket: no one is fooled.) So, Alcohol, Entertain­ment, Theatre, Copyright, Gaming and Lottery, Raffles, Health and Safety for events and for workers, Fire Precautions, Food Hygiene, Trading, Planning Permission, Building Regu­la­tions, Data Protection, Protection of Children, and CRB checks — all may play a part.

My second source is Practical Church Management, by James Beh­rens, published by Gracewing. Focused primarily on church matters, it flags up issues that are different for churches and for church halls.

The churchcare website (www.churchcare.co.uk) contains a great deal of information, too.

However familiar we are with running our church build­ings, our primary experience is their use as places of worship; much more has to be considered when we wish to run them as community centres. The laws are different, and often more com­prehensive.

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