Get the right licences for your tourist accommodation business
Before you open your door to guests, you need to make sure you have all the necessary licenses in place to run your business legally.
For example, if you plan to serve alcohol on your premises, you will need to have an up-to-date liquor licence. If you have installed televisions or play music on your premises, you will need licences for that too.
This guide will help you understand which licences you need for your tourist accommodation business, and how to apply for them.
You should read this guide alongside legal requirements for tourism businesses.
Alcohol licensing for tourism businesses
You will need a licence from your local county court to sell alcohol on your premises.
You will only be able to apply to the court for a liquor licence for certain premises, including:
- premises where alcohol will be sold and consumed eg pubs
- premises where alcohol is sold for drinking off the premises
- guest houses
- conference centres certified by the Tourism NI
- other venues that include indoor arenas, higher education institutions, public entertainment premises, public transport premises and seamen's canteens
You can't apply for a licence if your premises are situated on a service area, or are on the same premises as a garage or petrol station.
Hotels, guest houses and conference centres
If you run a hotel, guest house or a conference centre, you must apply to the courts for a liquor licence and show that:
- you are fit to hold a licence
- the premises are suitable for the sale of alcohol
Conference centres must meet certain requirements to get a licensing letter from Tourism NI.
TV licence fees for hotels, hostels and campsites
If you're providing TVs on your premises for overnight guests, you should apply for a Hotel and Mobile Units Television Licence.
While staying on your property, guests are not covered by their home licence. Long-term hotel guests (ie those staying over 28 days) are an exception. They are not covered by a hotel licence and must have their own ordinary television licence.
Your licence fee will depend on the number of accommodation or mobile units you offer:
- up to 15 units - £145.50
- more than 15 units - one fee for the first 15 units and an additional fee of £145.50 for ever extra five units or fewer
Showing TV and film in public areas
If you show TV programmes or films (live broadcast or via DVD or online streaming) in public areas such as bars, shops, restuarants, lounges or lobbies, you will require a licence.
There are a number of main organisations who issue these licenses, including the Motion Picture Licensing Company.
Music licences for tourism businesses
If you play music in your business, you are required by law to have a music licence. There are two types of music licences.
Performing Rights Society (PRS) licence
You will need a PRS licence if you play any copyrighted music in public on your premises, including in reception areas and guest bedrooms.
A Music Licence permits you to play copyright music for your staff and customers in whatever way you choose. In your premises this might include:
- music on TV channels (reception areas and guest bedrooms)
- radios, CD & MP3 players, digital music systems
- music on hold
- live bands and DJs
- karaoke machines
PRS has a discretionary charging policy which waives music licence charges for tourist accommodation businesses:
- that have 3 guest bedrooms or fewer
- that are the owners' sole holiday accommodation business
- that are also the domestic residence of the owner
- that are not licensed for the sale of alcohol
- which facilities are only available to resident guests
This policy also applies to small B&Bs with three guest bedrooms or fewer as well as single unit self catering businesses with three bedrooms or fewer. PRS provide information on applying for a licence and how much it costs.
Phonographic Performance Limited licences
While PRS licences relate to the copyright in the music itself, there is also a separate Phonographic Performance Limited (PPL) licence which relates to the actual recording, whether on a CD, tape or record etc.
There are two types of PPL licence:
- one is for the use of sound recordings as background music in foyers, bars and eating areas
- the other is for the use of sound recordings as a featured attraction on the premises (such as dances and discos)
The cost of the licence varies according to use.