In theory, alcohol can be provided in a welcome pack free of charge. Welcome packs which contain alcohol on an occasional basis should not require additional permission or licences. But that may not always be the case.
While most short term let operators will now require to obtain a short term let licence, that does not cover provision of alcohol in welcome packs or otherwise. This would be covered by a liquor licence (called a Premises Licence). The legislation in Scotland which regulates this is the Licensing (Scotland) Act 2005, as amended.
If a welcome pack occasionally has alcohol in it, for example, for a particular guest who returns year on year, a guest who has had a very happy or sad event or at a certain time of year, such as, Christmas, Easter or similar, the premises and the operator should not require a licence.
If the welcome pack always contains alcohol there is an argument that some of the cost of the stay paid for by the guest is attributed to that welcome pack. It is generally accepted that welcome packs vary, but that some welcome packs will reflect the rating and level of accommodation provided. For example, a basic glamping pod which provides only a shell, mattress and washing facilities where guests require to bring their own bedding, towels, and similar would perhaps have a more basic welcome pack than a luxury designer property where the welcome pack then may contain items including luxury alcohol. In that case the position taken by many council licensing teams is that the guest’s payment made reflects not only the luxury aspect of the accommodation but also the items in the welcome pack, including any alcohol.
Alcohol cannot be given away ‘free’ if there is a premises licence in place. That means that if a short term let operator obtains a licence they then cannot give alcohol away free and at that point must attribute some of the cost of the alcohol to the sums paid for the stay.
The other way in which this can become an issue is when shopping and is provided. While it is very common in hotels and even smaller B&Bs and guesthouses to see an option to add wine, chocolates, cake, balloons and similar for special events to your booking, that remains less common in self-catering. Were an unlicensed hotel, guesthouse or B&B to offer the addition of alcohol to a booking, they would require a licence.
This also applies to self-catering when doing shopping for guests. If the alcohol added to the booking or purchased for the guest as shopping is charged back solely at the cost of the alcohol itself, that should not require a licence as the guest is not being charged a premium for the alcohol. In that case the operator bought the alcohol, the guest refunds the operator the cost of the alcohol, but there is no admin nor other charge. If, there is a ‘general’ price for alcohol, such as a guesthouse offers a bottle of champagne to be put in rooms at an additional charge of £50, that is not a charge only for the alcohol there is a fee on top of the actual cost of the alcohol and a licence is then required. If a self-catering operator does shopping for a guest, which contains alcohol, and charges an admin fee for the shopping (either a one-off admin fee over and above the actual cost of the shopping, or inflates the charge back to the guest for the shopping by adding an admin fee to each item) a licence is required.
Given the onerous approach taken by some council areas to current planning consent, particularly for self-catering, and the cost of obtaining a short term let licence, it is a sensible option for operators to consider applying for a liquor licence. Further information on liquor licences, whether you need one and whether you might be well placed with a liquor licence, can be obtained from Joanna Millar at our business partner Gilson Gray. Jo can be contacted on 07747 653417 or email@example.com.