Selling alcohol FAQs

There's a lot of confusion over selling, serving and winning alcohol at events. We have a sober conversation with expert Jill Pocock

Which licence does the PTA need to sell alcohol?

In England and Wales, you need a Temporary Event Notice to conduct a ‘licensable activity’ on unlicensed premises. Most licensing authorities now have online application portals – you must apply at least ten days before the day of the event. In some circumstances, you can submit a ‘late Temporary Event Notice’ giving five working days’ notice, but if there is any objection, you may miss out.

Is a TEN suitable for all events, even big summer fairs?

If the number of attendees (including children, staff and volunteers) exceeds 499, you may need to obtain a Premises Licence. This is especially true if alcohol sales and regulated entertainment, such as live music or a DJ, are involved.

What’s the difference between ‘relevant’ entertainment and ‘regulated’ entertainment?

Relevant entertainment is a category that’s used specifically for adult entertainment ie, pole dancing, whereas ‘regulated entertainment’ covers things like live music. I’ve had to make a few calls asking if a community group, PTA or church was really planning on having ‘adult’ entertainment at their event. Make sure you tick the correct box!

Can we get a TEN just for the bar area?

If selling alcohol is the only licensable activity at the event, it is possible to submit a TEN for just the bar rather than the entire site. The TEN application must state the specific location of the bar. The responsible person must ensure the area does not exceed the maximum capacity. State that you want to sell alcohol for sales on and off the premises, so people can take their drink out of the bar area.

Are there any occasions when the PTA can serve alcohol at an event without a TEN?

Yes, you can serve alcohol without a licence if it is genuinely free of charge. For example, if you are hosting an AGM and offer a free alcoholic drink. You must not, however, ask for donations for alcohol as that counts as a sale.

Can the PTA give away a free drink as part of the ticket price and avoid needing a TEN?

If alcohol is included in the price of a ticket then the customer is buying both entry and alcohol – so a licence is required. Saying something is ‘free’ doesn’t change the facts of the transaction. Similarly, you can’t give a ‘free’ alcoholic drink when someone buys a cup: this also counts as a sale.

What about when bottles of alcohol are prizes?

An alcohol licence is not required where bottles are a prize in a tombola or a raffle and winners take them (still sealed) away for consumption elsewhere. There has to be a genuine element of chance involved – you can’t run a raffle or tombola where everyone is a winner and every prize is alcohol.

Can PTAs allow people to bring their own alcohol to an event?

The consumption of alcohol is not a licensable activity, so people can bring and consume their own alcohol.

What will happen to a PTA that’s found to have illegally sold alcohol?

Both the individuals who sold alcohol and the PTA as an organisation can face prosecution under section 136 of the Licensing Act 2003. The penalty upon conviction is up to six months in prison and a fine. There is now no maximum fine: it is set by the court considering the circumstances of the offence and the offender. It’s just not worth the risk!

Where can we learn more?

As a first port of call, check your local authority’s website. also has some information. Poppleston Allen, a specialist solicitor in licensing law, also has resources on its website.

Jill Pocock is a PTA chair with more than ten years’ experience in regulatory enforcement as a licensing officer and trading standards officer.


Further information