Internet cafe legal issues

Multiple people sat down at computers in internet cafe

There are several pieces of legislation that apply to internet cafes. They cover areas such as licensing, food safety, food labelling and litter.

Insurance for an internet cafe

You must make sure that all of the software installed on your computers or served via the 'cloud' is correctly licensed for the use you will put it to. Contact the publishers or distributors of the software for their licensing terms and, if you intend to offer gaming on a commercial basis, you can get more information on what can be a complex issue from the iGames LAN Centers website.

All food-serving cafés must register with the local authority environmental health department.

Serving alcohol

If you're intending to serve alcohol you will need:

  • in England and Wales - a premises licence from your local licensing authority covering the sale of alcohol, the provision of regulated entertainment and the supply of hot food between the hours of 11.00pm and 5.00am ('late night refreshment', although in some cases late night refreshment may be exempt from the licensing requirement). You can read more about alcohol, regulated entertainment and late night refreshment licensing in England and Wales on the website
  • in England and Wales - a personal licence from your local licensing authority authorising a designated responsible person (for example yourself, or a manager) to oversee the above activities if applicable
  • in Northern Ireland - an alcohol licence from the county court. You can read more about alcohol licensing in Northern Ireland on the NI Direct website
  • in Scotland - a personal and premises licence from the local licensing authority. You can read more about alcohol licensing in Scotland on the Scottish Government website

Additional licensing requirements

You may also need:

  • a Music Licence from PPL PRS Ltd. There is an annual fee for this which you can pay online on the PPL PRS website
  • if you use CCTV you may be required to register as a data user with the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO)
  • if you plan to have some tables outside on the pavement you may need to obtain clearance from your local authority highways department

Software licences

Make sure that all of your software is correctly licensed for use in your café. Contact the publishers or distributors of the software that you use to find out their licensing terms or, if you plan to offer gaming on a commercial basis, visit the iGames LAN Centers website for further guidance.

If you offer food and drink there is quite a lot of regulation that you need to be aware of, so may need specialist help to make sure you comply with all the legal requirements. The following is an outline of some of the areas that are likely to be relevant to you. This list is not exhaustive.

Food safety

All businesses in the food sector must comply with strict food safety legislation. Before you open, you must register your business with the local authority environmental health department. Your local environmental health officer will be able to give you advice and guidance as to what you should install in your premises to make sure your operating areas are hygienic and how to comply with the requirements of food safety, hygiene and labelling regulations.

Food waste

If your business produces food waste you must make sure that you dispose of it correctly. If you use a waste carrier to get rid of your waste you'll need to make sure they're properly authorised. You can find out more about your responsibilities on the website.

Alcohol licensing legislation

If you intend to sell alcohol you'll need to obtain the appropriate licence and comply with the terms of the legislation. You can find out more information about alcohol licensing throughout the UK from:

  • the website
  • NI Direct
  • the Scottish Government

The Licensing Act also covers the provision of hot food and drink between the hours of 11.00pm and 5.00am.


The Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act makes businesses responsible for clearing up any litter around the site that has originated from their premises. If you intend to offer take away snacks then you will be responsible for clearing up any food or drink packaging, including empty crisp packets, drink cartons, ice cream wrappers and so on - the local authority can issue you with a Street Litter Control Notice that requires you to clear up litter than can be identified as originating from your premises.

Workplace smoking ban

Smoking is no longer permitted in public places and workplaces. You must display appropriate 'No Smoking' signs. The legislation varies slightly in different parts of the UK so contact your local authority for details of how the ban affects you. You can also find out more on the HSE website.

Environmental legislation

The Environmental Protection Act and regulations made under it apply to businesses like cafes and restaurants and cover matters that include:

  • nuisance like noise, smoke, smells and accumulated rubbish
  • proper disposal of controlled business waste
  • preventing the contamination of drains and groundwater from potentially harmful substances like old frying oil

Visit the website for more information on environmental protection and management.

Health & Safety, fire

You must comply with workplace health and safety and fire safety legislation.

Employment legislation

Anyone employing staff must comply with employment legislation. Important areas of legislation include recruitment, employment contracts, pay, working hours, holidays, employment policies, sickness, maternity, paternity, discrimination, discipline, grievances, dismissals, redundancies and employment tribunals.

Insurance for an internet cafe

Contact an insurer or insurance broker and explain exactly how your business will operate - they will then explain what insurance cover you must have by law, and other cover you should consider. This might include:

  • premises, premises contents and stock. This is particularly important as you will have a number of expensive computers in your premises
  • goods in transit (for example on the way back from a cash and carry)
  • refrigerator/freezer breakdown
  • cash
  • business interruption
  • loss of your alcohol licence
  • employers liability
  • public and products liability
  • visitors' belongings
  • failure of gas, water or electricity
  • motor insurance

Specially tailored restaurant packages are available providing comprehensive cover which may be appropriate depending on how your business will operate.

What does the * mean?

If a link has a * this means it is an affiliate link. To find out more, see our FAQs.