What is late night refreshment?

For the purposes of the Licensing Act 2003, the provision of late night refreshment means the supply of hot food or hot drink to the public, for consumption on or off the premises, between 11pm and 5am or the supply of hot food or hot drink to any persons between those hours on or from premises to which the public has access.

This applies to vehicles as well.

Owners of takeaway premises must apply for a Premises Licence if they intend to sell hot food or drink after 11pm as opposed to midnight under the former night café legislation.

What is considered hot?

Food or drink is considered 'hot' for the purposes of the Act if it is heated on the premises or elsewhere before it is supplied for the purpose of enabling it to be consumed at above ambient air temperature, or if it may be heated on the premises for this purpose after it is supplied.


The following miscellaneous supplies of hot food or hot drink are exempt.

  • Hot drink consisting of, or containing alcohol (although an authorisation under the Act will be required for the supply of alcohol)
  • Hot drink distributed by a vending machine where the payment for the hot drink is inserted into the machine by a member of the public, and the hot drink is supplied directly by the machine to the member of the public
  • Hot food or hot drink supplied free of charge, where there is also no charge for admission to any premises, or for some other item to obtain the hot food or hot drink
  • Hot food or hot drink supplied by a registered charity or by a person authorised by a registered charity (ie a charity which is registered under section 3 of the Charities Act 1993 or a charity which, by virtue of subsection (5) of that section is not required to be registered)
  • Hot food or hot drink supplied on a vehicle, which is not permanently or temporarily parked at the time

Supplies of hot food or hot drink are also exempt where the supply is on or from premises to which, at the time of the supply, only persons of the following descriptions will be admitted and supplied with hot food or hot drink.

  • Guests (and their guests) of hotels or similar premises - that is guest houses, lodging houses, hostels, caravan or camping sites or other premises supplying accommodation as their main purpose
  • Members of recognised clubs and their guests
  • Employees of a particular employer and their guests - for example, where refreshment is made available to employees whose shift patterns require them to be present at the workplace between 11pm and 5am
  • Persons engaged in a particular trade or who are members of a particular profession or follow a particular vocation, and their guests

Supplies of hot food or hot drink on or from premises already licensed under certain other Acts - for example, those used as 'near beer' premises in London, where certain descriptions of non-alcoholic beverages are sold, are also exempt.

More information

For further information, visit the alcohol and entertainment licence web page.