Hospitality Industry Insight: Reducing risks in your licensed premises

Bar area of upmarket restaurant insured by ABL Group

As the owner of a pub, bar or nightclub, the risks you face can sometimes seem endless, especially with the constant threats of crime, violence, fire, slips and trips. These risks are exacerbated by long hours, late closing times, crowded premises and intoxicated customers.

However, many risks associated with licensed premises—businesses that are licensed to provide entertainment and supply alcohol for consumption on the premises—can be reduced with proper management and appropriate insurance covers. This article outlines how to conduct a risk assessment of your business, common risks of operating a licensed premises and strategies to mitigate those risks.

Risk Assessments

As an employer, you have a legal duty to ensure the health and safety of your employees. You are required to conduct a risk assessment of your licensed premises, which entails assessing the risks your business faces and implementing plans to mitigate them. Your risk assessment should include the following steps:

  • Identify and evaluate the hazards.
  • Determine who might be harmed and how.
  • Decide on precautions to reduce the risks.
  • Record your findings and implement the precautions you decided on.
  • Regularly review your risk assessment and update it if necessary.

For more information on risk assessments, please see the following guidance on the HSE website:

Workplace Violence and Security

Theft, physical violence and verbal abuse are particularly common risks on licensed premises. Incidents can escalate quickly and involve both employees and customers. Make sure to address the following security risks.

Business Layout

Pay attention to the way your business is laid out. If you cannot survey the entire premises because of blind spots, customers will feel more anonymous and encouraged to commit crimes, and commonly targeted items like cash tills become vulnerable to theft. Consider removing obstacles obstructing your view or installing mirrors in blind spots to promote visibility.


If you are not able to see your customers due to inadequate lighting, trying to spot and deter aggressive or illicit behaviour becomes more difficult. Entrances, exits, common areas and car parks should remain well-lit at all times to minimise risk.


The inability to see all areas of your premises could encourage violence or crime. Even if you witness criminal activity, without visual evidence you may not be able to identify and prosecute offenders. A surveillance system such as closed-circuit television (CCTV) can act as a deterrent, instantly direct staff to problem areas and make employees feel safer.

Security Devices

You likely already have security devices in place such as alarms and locks, but criminals will try to circumvent them. Make sure to implement extra security measures, such as window restraints, and educate your employees about responding to triggered alarms.

Security Personnel

A well-trained security staff can reduce the risk of violence and crime and instil confidence in your employees. Make sure your security personnel are capable and possess the training you expect.


Large crowds of people in a small space can foster aggression, particularly when under the influence of alcohol. Write and distribute a safety plan so your employees know how to handle entry situations and manage a densely packed crowd when your premises reach capacity.

Intoxicated Customers

Customers under the influence of alcohol can be volatile. Your employees should closely monitor drink-up time and perform a thorough ‘sweep’ of the premises before locking up to make sure everything is in order and no one is lingering. Consider investing in toughened glass or plastic drinking vessels to reduce costs and broken glass hazards.

Working Practices

  • Reduce the amount of cash handled by employees, especially in front of customers. Arrange for frequent cash collections to deter robbery.
  • Maintain an adequate staff. Employees may feel overwhelmed if only a few of them have to manage a large crowd by themselves.
  • Emphasise good customer service as a way to avoid or defuse aggression.
  • Increase security as the night goes on. Later hours means customers are more likely to be under the influence of alcohol. Ensure employees can safely exit the premises and return home late at night.


Make sure your employees are trained in violence resolution as well as prevention. You should prepare them for a number of scenarios, but you should also highlight the specific risks they will face according to their job descriptions. Remember to carry out regular refresher training. You can bolster your violence and security risk management strategies by partnering with the police, your local authority, trade unions and other local businesses. Working with others that are also invested in reducing crime and violence improves your chances of running a profitable, successful business.

Location and Premises

Your establishment’s location helps determine your clientele. If your licensed premises is located in a busy urban area, increased security and theft prevention measures will help offset risk. Urban areas are at a higher risk for fire, particularly arson. Mitigate the risk of accidental fire or arson by regularly checking fire detection and extinguishing equipment, as well as escape routes. An authorised electrician should assess and approve the wiring in your building.

Slips and Trips

Licensed premises are particularly vulnerable to slips and trips because many are dimly lit and may have flashing lights, crowded dance floors or additional distractions. Your business could be held liable for slips and trips that occur. However, there are a number of ways to foster safety and prevent slips and trips:

  • Cleaning and removing substances from the floor that are likely to cause a slip, trip or fall, including spilt drinks, broken glass and other obstructions.
  • Maintaining stairs, balconies and walkways with handrails and adequate lighting or signage.
  • Placing absorbent mats near areas where liquid is often present and using no-slip floor coverings.
  • Clearing gangways and corridors of any obstacles.

You can also mitigate your risks by purchasing public liability and legal expenses cover. Contact our hospitality insurance experts today for more information.