Publican/Licensee Careers

How to become a Publican/Licensee

What does a Publican/Licensee do?

Publicans/licensees manage licensed premises such as pubs and bars. Their establishments serve alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks, and sometimes food. Entertainment areas, fruit machines, and accommodation can also be part of the pub environment.

Organising deliveries and the general running and maintenance of the pub/bar areas are some of the main tasks. Serving customers, closing at the time specified on the premises licence, and being responsible for health and hygiene are all essential duties. Publicans may supervise others to carry out some of these tasks.

Other duties involve stock taking, counting takings, handling wages, and undertaking book-keeping and accounts. In order to maintain the popularity of a pub or bar, it may be necessary to devise new ways of attracting more customers. Building and maintaining relationships with breweries, suppliers, staff, and with customers is also very important.

Publicans/licensees are responsible for enforcing the law regarding the sale of alcohol on licensed premises. All such premises will require a personal licence holder. Licences are valid for 10 years, and applications are made through licensing authorities (units within local district, county and borough councils); see Training section for details. Scotland is governed by different legislation; local licensing boards process licence applications.

If employed by a company or brewery/landlord, it will be necessary to make regular reports regarding sales, orders for new stock and other matters.

What's the working environment like working as a Publican/Licensee?

Licensees work long hours. The Licensing Act 2003 introduced new laws during 2005, which allow flexible opening hours for premises - up to 24 hour opening, seven days a week (subject to objection). This may impact on the hours and shifts worked by the publican/licensee and their staff.

Pubs can be very noisy and smoky at busy times. There are long periods of standing and the work may involve lifting and carrying crates, barrels, etc.

Accommodation is usually above the pub, and rent is free, which increases the value of the salary.

What does it take to become a Publican/Licensee?

As a publican/licensee, you will need:

  • organisational and planning skills
  • financial/numeracy skills for handling cash/book- keeping
  • physical fitness for standing and lifting
  • the energy and stamina to cope with long hours
  • the ability to recruit, train and supervise staff
  • knowledge of the laws relating to licensing, and health and safety
  • a friendly, outgoing personality
  • an open mind to identify new ways of attracting customers.

Publican/Licensee Career Opportunities

The pub scene is expanding rapidly. Within large pub or bar chains, promotion may lead to running larger or busier pubs, or to area or regional manager posts. Managers are employees but there is usually a generous bonus scheme related to the takings of the pub. Free accommodation and in some cases, food, increase the value of the salary.

The money-earning and expansion potential may be limited by the rent which is payable to the brewery. Managers have to sell beers produced by their landlord and obtain their agreement before making any changes. However, in contrast, the brewery may help finance improvements.

Freeholders may sell a smaller pub and buy a bigger one or buy an additional pub. They have a free hand in new developments, within the licensing laws, providing they can raise the finance for it.

The main opportunity for increasing earnings (through extra bonuses for managers and increased profits for tenants/freeholders) is by expansion of the trade of the pub. This may be done by improving the facilities, service, and the range of services offered.

Further information

If you would like to know anything about Publican/Licensee that does not appear on Hotcourses, further information can be found below.

British Institute of Innkeeping (BII)
Wessex House
80 Park Street
GU15 3PT
Tel: 01276 684449

Tel: 08707 202 909

Tel: 0845 170 0001

Alcohol Focus Scotland
2nd Floor
166 Buchanan Street
G1 2LW
Tel: 0141 572 6700

Springboard UK
3 Denmark Street
Tel: 020 7497 8654

2nd Floor
Armstrong House
38 Market Square
Tel: 0870 060 2550

Facts and Stats:

  • Napoleon Bonaparte once called England a "nation of shopkeepers".

  • Consumer expenditure per head in the UK is £8,053.

  • The phrase "The customer is always right", was coined by H Gordon Selfridge.

  • The annual sales of digestive biscuits, if stacked on top of each other, would reach 275 miles high That's 4,500 times the height of Nelson's Column or 1,400 times the height of the Eiffel Tower.

  • Britain's first department store was Selfridges, which was opened in 1909.

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