We’ve probably all thought about it at some point, while having a drink down the ‘local’ – wouldn’t it be great to actually run a pub? We examine how the UK’s Licensed Trade could indeed be the new career for you.

The British have strong feelings about the pub. Public houses continue to be a feature in many of our lives. Indeed, after new licensing laws came into force this November – allowing round-the-clock retail of alcohol in England and Wales – you could be forgiven for thinking that our love affair with ‘the local’ could become an obsession.

That said, our drinking establishments have changed significantly in recent years; according to the Scottish Beer and Pub Association, the licensed trade “has developed very significantly with the development of the pub as a place offering entertainment and food, as well as alcohol”. Increasingly cosmopolitan tastes have also led to a growth in ‘themed’ venues (such as O’Neill’s Irish bars), venues focusing on real ale, wine and/or cocktails, and continental-style cafes.

According to BII, the professional body for this industry, the licensed retail sector currently employs around 900,000 people in some 64,000 licensed premises across the UK – contributing the best part of £23 billion to the nation’s economy. As a result – be it in a relaxing country pub frequented primarily by ‘the locals’ or the most stylish, ultra-modern city bar or internationally famous nightclub – the UK’s choice of venues ensures that the Licensed Trade continues to offer real career opportunities.

Bars in the UK are either owned by breweries (such as Scottish Courage), commercial companies (for example, J D Wetherspoon’s) or by individuals (Freehouses). While some pubs and bars owned by national companies are managed by salaried staff ultimately responsible to the company’s head office, many others are run by individuals who have taken out a lease, tenancy or franchise agreement. Indeed, even though this brand of publican isn’t technically a freeholder (someone who owns the whole business and is not tied to any one supplier), the fact is that they could be effectively running the business as if they owned it – their duties including the recruitment of staff, ordering supplies, the maintenance of the building, promotion of the business, and bookkeeping, as well as also serving behind the bar!

Salaried staff: it’s becoming more common for people with HND or degree level qualifications to join some companies as a management trainee; this is an excellent way to gain practical experience and training in areas ranging from basic health and safety to food hygiene, stock management and cash control.

Tenancies and leases are commercial arrangements where the business – including the building and the land – are let to an individual or partnership. The letting agreement will include trading arrangements, designating who has responsibility for structural repairs and decoration, and outlining any other legal requirements for both parties.

A tenancy is normally offered for between three and five years (with an option to renew the tenancy at the end), offering both security during the period of the tenancy but also the freedom to move on elsewhere after the end of the agreement. While internal decoration is likely to be the responsibility of the tenant, there is the potential reassurance of knowing that any major repairs remain the responsibility of the company. Tenancy rents also tend to be lower than those given to lessees, since a tenant is still tied to the products of the pub owner.

Leases are the preferred option of those wishing to commit to the business in the longer term, usually lasting between ten and twenty years (although if you wish to move on it is possible to ‘assign’ the agreement to someone else during the period of the lease). Buying a lease also requires you to have a relatively large amount of capital: this varies from business to business, but can be calculated from the value of the property’s trade fixtures and fittings, along with stock and glassware, working capital, rent (one months rent in advance), training, and security bond. As a lessee, you will have responsibility for not only decoration and minor maintenance of the pub, but also the main structure of the building, including roof and wall repairs. Tenancies and Leases can cost between £20,00-£45,000 depending on location and duration.

A growing number of companies also now offer franchise agreements which allow you to trade under a distinctive brand identity, and enjoy the stability that comes from financial and legal support – a Charles Wells franchise, for instance, includes support with accounts and payroll, as well as menu planning, stocktaking and interior design. Franchises can start from £20,000-£100,000 depending on the venue and location.

A final option is to simply run your own business as a freeholder, who owns the premises and is free to choose which suppliers provide their drinks, food and entertainment.

The law insists that anyone authorising the retail sale of alcohol – be it in a public house, night club or restaurant – must possess a personal licence to do so, which is issued by a local licensing authority / board. A premises licence is also required for the venue. Under the most recent legislation (in England, the Licensing Act 2003; in Scotland, a new Licensing _regime is expected to come into force in 2008), in order to qualify for this licence, an individual must hold an appropriate qualification. The Level 2 National Certificate for Personal Licence Holders (NCPLH) has been developed by the BII’s _own awarding body, BIIAB, to meet this particular need, and replaces their previous National Certificate for Licensees (NCL).

The NCPLH enables candidates to understand the law in relation to areas such as the role and legal responsibilities of a personal licence holder, permitted activities, a specific prohibitions and the responsible retail sale of alcohol. Successful completion of this particular qualification – which has been designed to be completed in a day, although longer tuition or self study options are available – means that you become eligible to join the BII, the professional body for the UK’s licensed retail sector (which has some 17,000 individual members). Some companies will also insist that tenants or licensees will have successfully sat a 3 or 5 day BII Induction Certificate, and agree to further training.

As a result, many people – even if they aim to become wholly independent freeholders owning their own business at some point – will build up their experience through working for, or initially taking on a lease or franchise with, a major company.

Pay varies enormously in the Licensed Sector, with income usually dependent upon the size and scale of the venue. Successful managers can earn anything between £20,000 to £50,000 a year. Extra money is not usually paid for working unsociable hours.

The Licensed trade requires flexibility, hard work and enthusiasm. While running a pub can be very rewarding, it’s also very demanding and comes with real responsibility, 365 days a year. People wanting to enter this profession must enjoy working long, often unsociable hours, and be able to work under stress! Sound familiar?


Tel: 01276 684 449

Tel: 01276 684 449

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