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Sale of alcohol by retail

The sale of alcohol by retail is a sale of alcohol to any person except those described as wholesalers.

Any other sale of alcohol is a sale of alcohol by retail regardless of the quantity of alcohol purchased. The sale of alcohol includes events where alcohol is included in the ticket price or no specific price is quoted per drink but donations are requested or accepted for the alcohol. This includes charity events.

It is an offence to display alcohol for an unauthorised sale.

Licensable activity

The sale of alcohol by retail is a licensable activity and therefore requires a licence.  Find out more about:

  • Premises Licences, which authorise premises or land for the sale of alcohol on a regular basis;
  • Temporary Event Notices, which authorise an individual or group for a temporary or limited event;
  • Personal Licences, which authorise an individual to sell alcohol at premises with a premises licence.

Definition of alcohol

Alcohol is defined as spirits, wine, beer, cider or any other fermented, distilled or spirituous liquor.

Exempt alcohol

  • Alcohol with a strength below 0.5 per cent by volume
  • Alcohol within perfume
  • Flavouring essences and Angostura bitters
  • Alcohol which is in a medicinal product
  • Denatured alcohol (methylated spirits) or methyl alcohol
  • Naphtha
  • Liqueur confectionery

Do alcohol wholesalers require a licence to trade?

Yes, in some cases. Under a new system, for the first time, wholesalers need a premises licence to sell alcohol in wholesale quantities to members of the public. No sales of any kind may be made to children.

Sales made to other traders for the purposes of their trade are not a licensable activity. Similarly, sales made to holders of premises licences, club premises certificates, personal licences and Temporary Event Notices are not a licensable activity if the sale is for the purposes authorised by those licences. If those individuals bought the alcohol for personal consumption, the wholesaler would need to hold a licence.

Alcohol Wholesaler Registration Scheme (AWRS): find out if you need to register

Work out if you need to register for AWRS or whether you're covered by the incidental sales exemption with guidance on the GOV.UK website


For more information contact Licensing Unit by telephone: 01634 306000 or by email: licensing@medway.gov.uk

Write to: Licensing Unit, Medway Council, Gun Wharf, Dock Road, Chatham, Kent ME4 4TR