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Guide What's new in licensing

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6. New entertainment exemptions under the Licensing Act

The Deregulation Act 2015 became law on Thursday 26 March 2015 and introduced a number of important changes to the Licensing Act 2003.  These included from the 6 April exemptions for some entertainments to be licensed under the Licensing Act 2003.  These are explained briefly in the following list:

Live Music

Live amplified music in on-licensed premises authorised and open for the sale of alcohol does not require a licence for audiences up to 500 (a 300 increase) until 11.00 pm.  This includes beer gardens and terraces if they are included in the licensed premises.  Live-music related conditions do not apply unless they are re-imposed at a Review.  If a beer garden is not shown on the licensed plans then it is likely to nevertheless be a workplace which benefits from a similar exemption. Karaoke is considered live music.  Live unamplified music does not need a licence anywhere and with no audience limit between 8.00 am to 11.00 pm.

Entertainment Facilities

Entertainment facilities (stages, karaoke machines, microphone stands, even electrical sockets) have not been licensable since October 2012.  You may still see these 'authorised' on your licence if it has not been amended but they are no longer relevant to licensing.

Recorded Music

Recorded music in on-licensed premises benefits from the same exemption as live music above, with the same audience limit.  This covers DJs and discos and is a new development, as until now most recorded music above background level has been licensable under the Act.  There is no equivalent "workplace" exemption.  Background live and recorded music continues to be exempt.

Performance of Plays, Indoor Sporting Events and Performances of Dance

'Plays' could include Noddy at a holiday camp but also a themed "ghost story-reading night" with paid actors at a pub.  'Performances of Dance' includes any non-customer dancing that is intended to entertain an audience.  Since June 2013, for audiences up to 500 (and in the case of indoor sporting events, up to 1,000) from 8.00 am until 11.00 pm none of these activities require authorisation under the Licensing Act.  Lap-dancing and other forms of sexual entertainment on up to 11 occasions a year remain regulated under the 2003 Act (any more will usually require a Sexual Entertainment Venue licence).


The showing of pre-recorded films which are incidental to some other activity (for example, drinking, eating or playing pool) is not licensable.  This will very much be dependent on the facts of each case but the real test will be, Is the showing of any pre-recorded film likely to undermine one of the licensing objectives?

Boxing & Wrestling

This activity remains regulated under the Act (and now explicitly includes mixed martial arts) apart from Greco-Roman and freestyle wrestling.

More information on these exemptions can be found on the government website.

None of the exemptions affect the need to apply for copyright licensing or the requirement not to cause a noise nuisance. 

Regulated Entertainment is a complex area and there are other minor exemptions - you should take legal advice if in any doubt.