Drinks stores are continuously looking for new ways to stand out and remain profitable, and one potential way to do this is to become a hybrid business, blurring the lines between retailing and the on-trade.

While such a transformation can elevate the success of small businesses selling alcohol, the changes needed must be carefully thought out, to facilitate a smooth transition and reduce the risk of unwanted encounters with regulatory authorities. 

1. Take the right advice before you start. A business transition is not easy. It is time-consuming, complex and presents hurdles that are much easier to navigate with expert advice. 

2. Know what licence you will need. Changing to a hybrid business will require you to have an on-premise licence and on off-trade one. You should also consider whether to apply for a planning use change to include A4 (drinking establishment) and/or A3 (restaurants and cafés).  

3. Talk to the authorities before submitting any application. While this is not a requirement, rules and regulations around licensing vary between different local authorities, so it’s useful to discuss these and prevent unforeseen hurdles arising later down the line. Check your local authority website for guidance and applications. 

4. Be prepared for the change. Are you aware of the four licensing objectives – the prevention of crime and disorder, public safety, the prevention of public nuisance and the protection of children from harm – and how your new style of business will ensure it does not compromise any of these? The most common reason for licence reviews is breaching the crime and disorder objective, so ensure your business has appropriate measures in place to meet these four. 

5. Demonstrate that you have considered everything in your application. A well thought out, clear application will increase your chances of success. Beyond the application, you will need to think about: staff training; health and safety on site, including hygiene and risk assessments, fire alarms, emergency exits and seating capacity; and a premises plan, covering bathroom facilities, seating and accessibility.