Pool hall legal issues

Man in waistcoat playing pool in dark room with peoples and tables in background

The legislation that applies to your pool hall will depend on the items that you sell and the services that you offer.

What licences does a pool hall need?

You do not have to have a licence specifically to operate a pool and snooker club but if you plan to serve alcoholic drink and food or to hold pool or snooker events in your club there is certain action that you must take.

Selling alcohol and food

To operate a bar in your premises there are a number of licences you will have to obtain:

  • 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' - in some cases late night refreshment may be exempt from the licensing requirement). You can read more about alcohol, late night refreshment and entertainment licensing in England and Wales on the Gov.uk 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. The alcohol licensing system in Northern Ireland is more stringent than elsewhere in the UK and licences are generally more difficult - and often much more costly - to obtain. You may need to find someone who is prepared to sell you an existing licence. You can read more about alcohol licensing in Northern Ireland on the NI Direct website
  • in Scotland - a revised system of licensing was introduced in 2009 which is similar to that in England and Wales. You will need to get both a personal and a premises licence from your local Licensing Board. You can read more about alcohol licensing in Scotland on the Scottish Government website

You may be intending to operate as a 'qualifying' members club rather than as a proprietary club. (Proprietary clubs are those run commercially for profit.) If that's the case, you will need a Club Premises Certificate to sell alcohol and provide regulated entertainment instead of a premises licence and a personal licence. You can find out more on the Gov.uk website.

In addition, if you plan to offer any catering, you must register with your local authority environmental health department. (Note that if you only sell food in vending machines then you probably won't need to register, although the machines will still have to comply with food hygiene legislation.)

Other licences that you might need

You may also need:

  • a licence for holding indoor sports events, such as a pool or snooker tournament or exhibition match. Under the Licensing Act, indoor sports are classed as 'regulated entertainment' for which a licence may be required - most indoor sports events held between 8am and 11pm with an audience of up to 1,000 don't need a licence but events held outside those hours or in front of an audience of more than 1,000 do
  • a gaming machine permit from your local licensing authority. In Great Britain, your alcohol licence automatically entitles you to have two Category C or Category D machines (although you do have to activate this entitlement). If you want to offer more than that number, you need a gaming machine permit. In Northern Ireland, your alcohol licence entitles to a certain number of gaming machines. There's no set maximum, but the licensing authority will decide how many you can have when you apply for your licence. If you have a club permit for serving alcohol, you can have a maximum of three machines without needing a separate gaming machine permit
  • a Security Industry Authority (SIA) licence for door supervisors
  • a Music Licence from PPL PRS Ltd for using background music and/or music videos
  • a television licence

Alcohol licensing legislation

The sale of alcohol is regulated by:

  • the Licensing Act in England and Wales
  • the Licensing (Northern Ireland) Order
  • the Licensing (Scotland) Act in Scotland

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 Gov.uk website
  • NI Direct
  • the Scottish Government

Gaming legislation

Coin operated amusement machines offering games of chance are subject to gaming legislation. Under the terms of the Gambling Act, in Great Britain you can provide up to two gaming machines in your premises (category C and/or category D machines) if you also have an alcohol licence. You must notify your local licensing authority that you intend to provide a maximum of two machines. If you want to provide more than two machines, you must apply to your local licensing authority for a licensed premises gaming machine permit. Members' clubs can have a maximum of three gaming machines under a club gaming permit. These can be a mix of category B3A, B4, C or D machines, with a maximum of one B3A machine.

In Northern Ireland your alcohol licence will specify how many machines you can have. You can find out more about gaming legislation in Great Britain on the Gambling Commission website. The Department for Communities website has information about gambling laws in Northern Ireland.

With some exceptions, gaming machines are subject to Machine Games Duty. There is more information on the Gov.uk website.


If you decide to have a retail outlet in your club (for example that sells snooker and pool accessories) you will need to be aware of the wide range of legislation that applies to retail outlets and that protects the interests of the consumer. For example, goods and services must not be misleadingly described and the retail price of goods must be clearly displayed. You will be responsible for making sure that all goods or services are fit for their intended purpose and of satisfactory quality.

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 the Food Safety Act.

Workplace smoking ban

Don't forget that smoking is no longer permitted in all public places, clubs, workplaces and work vehicles and 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.

Data protection

If you keep computerised records of individuals' personal, or use a CCTV system, you may need to register with the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO). Even if you don't need to register, you'll still need to comply with data protection legislation. Visit the ICO website for more information.

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 a pool hall

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, accidental damage to pool and snooker tables, fixtures and fittings, glass breakage and stock
  • cash
  • business interruption
  • employers liability
  • public and products liability
  • motor insurance

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