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Does your Christmas fair need a licence to thrill?
11 Oct 2018

Christmas is coming and organisations the length and breadth of the country are starting to plan their fundraising festive fairs. But will you need a licence for your special event? FBC Manby Bowdler Partner Stuart Rea takes a look.

There is hardly a school, college, charity or voluntary organisation across the region which won’t hold a Christmas fair this year.

They will raise thousands of pounds for good causes, provide hours of entertainment and help the whole country usher in the festive spirit.

And you’ll be pleased to hear you can host all sorts of activities without needing a licence – though there are certain things which do need official permission. 

For instance, you don’t need a licence to hold a raffle. But there are still rules you must abide by:

  • Tickets need to be sold.
  • The raffle can’t be the main event -  it must be incidental to the Christmas fair 
  • The winner must be announced at the fair
  • You can’t deduct more than £100 from the proceeds
  • The prizes can't be worth more than £500; however, this doesn’t include donated gifts 
  • The awards can’t be just money and you can offer alcohol as a prize so long as it’s in an unopened bottle

If you're setting up a market stall on a public street as part of your Christmas fair, you'll need to obtain a temporary street trading licence, also known as a casual licence. Otherwise, you won't be able to sell your goods. 

But if your fair features entertainment between 8am and 11pm, you shouldn't need a licence. This extends to live musical performances for audiences up to 200 people.

Playing pre-recorded music is a different matter. For this you’ll need a licence from the Performing Rights Society and/or Phonographic Performance Limited to allow you to play all the classic Christmas tunes a seasonal fair so desperately needs. 

You may well want to sell some festive booze, for which you’ll need either a Premises Licence or a Club Premises Certificate. If you want to sell alcohol at a bar without having either of these licences, you’ll have to apply for a temporary event notice or TEN. 

A TEN can only be applied and given to one person and costs £21. Application forms are available online but it's worth starting the process at least two to three months in advance of your Christmas fair to avoid complications.

If you want to sell food at your fair and you’re a non-profit organisation, you can do so providing everything complies with the Food Safety Act.

You won’t need a licence if it’s a one-off event, you’re serving food infrequently or if the food is ‘low risk,’ such as packaged goods that need storing at room temperature. 

However, if you want to sell higher risk foods – such as hot food – then you need to register for a temporary licence with your local council. 

And if you have any doubts, get in touch with the team here at FBC Manby Bowdler and we can help make sure you have everything in order for a successful – and legal – Christmas Fair.

Stuart heads FBC Manby Bowdler’s Corporate Team in Shropshire and provides corporate and commercial services for large and small businesses in the Shropshire area. He is also head of the firm's Intellectual Property, Technology and Media Law Group and its Charities and Not-For-Profit Team. 

Meet Stuart Rea