At the Dublin Circuit Court Licensing date last Thursday, 22 June, Assistant Chief Fire Officer Dennis Keeley read out a statement to the court on behalf of the Fire Authority.

President Groarke introduced Mr. Keeley, noting that his statement was to explain to the court and all licensing practitioners the current issues being experienced by the Fire Authority.

Mr. Keeley highlighted to the court that whilst statute requires that the Fire Authority receive one clear calendar months’ Notice in writing of any on-licence application, a timeframe for inspection is not specified.

It was confirmed that in general, the policy of the Fire Authority will be to continue to inspect for first time applications as efficiently as possible. However, several common issues were being experienced by the Fire Authority.

Upon receipt of a Notice of a licensing application, the Fire Authority and/or its legal agent will issue a list of documents/certifications to be supplied in advance of inspection. To facilitate an inspection before the listed date, it is generally requested that the documents/certifications are provided two weeks before the application is listed.

Mr. Keeley recognised that in practice, Notices of Application are often submitted by applicants in the hope that all works at the proposed licensed premises will be completed by the listed hearing date. However, this is often not the case.

Accordingly, the delay in the completion of works results in the late delivery of documents and certifications to the Fire Officer, however despite this delay, the Fire Officer is still requested to inspect the premises before the listed hearing date so that the application can proceed.

Mr. Kelly further stated that the Fire Officer has sometimes been advised that works are completed, often with certificates of compliance being provided, but on inspection further works are required. He outlined that this can result in multiple inspections of the same premises, creating a backlog of applications.

Accordingly, it was specified by Mr. Keeley that all necessary certification and/or documents requested by the Fire Officer must be provided by all applicants at least two weeks before the hearing date of the application.

Judge Groarke confirmed his sympathy for the Fire Authority who was doing its best in difficult circumstances. He acknowledged that the request that all documentation is provided to the Fire Officer two weeks before an application is first listed is reasonable.

The outcome of this direction, is that applicants will need to have a more realistic view of when the works for the proposed licensed premises are to be completed and plan their licensing applications accordingly.

If the Notice of Application is served prematurely and works are not completed to allow for all certification to be delivered two weeks before the listed hearing date, then it is likely that the Fire Authority will object to the application and that the court will adjourn the matter to the next monthly licensing date and/or a specific date for the hearing of the Fire Officer’s objection.

The financial consequences of a months’ delay in opening a licensed premises are significant.

The project management of fit out will become even more important. A weeks’ delay in the completion of works could result in a months’ delay in the licensing the premises. It is important that all service providers involved in the licensing project (i.e. solicitor, barrister, contractor, fire engineer and architect) are all aligned and informed of the time frames involved to ensure a smooth application process and to minimise the possibility of any delay.