Firms To Watch: Licensing

Irwin Mitchell secured a major coup in September 2023 with the recruitment of a team of seven regulatory lawyers from Ince & Co, led by Philip Somarakis, who has joined as national head of regulatory. He specialises in gambling, alcohol, and entertainment licensing.

Licensing in London

Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner

Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner delivers ‘fair pricing and excellent results’ for a diverse range of clients, spanning from nightclubs, bars, and restaurants to hotels, property developers, banks and majro retailers. The lead partner for all licensing, nuisance and enforcement issues is practice head Jeremy Bark, described by one client as 'invaluable'. Bark is also noted for his capabilities as a solicitor advocate, appearing in tribunals across England and Wales on various judicial reviews, including before the Court of Appeal.

Practice head(s):

Jeremy Bark


‘Fair pricing, excellent results.’

‘We worked with Jeremy Bark on a nuisance issue regarding a local pub. His ability to digest the evidence, apply it to licensing regulations, and provide convincing argument before the licensing board was invaluable.’


Key clients


Marriott Hotels

Avant Restaurants

Here East


Bvlgari Hotel

Said London

Athenaeum Hotel


Auriens Chelsea

Work highlights

  • Obtaining a new premises licence for ITV’s new head office premises at White City.
  • Obtained a premises licence for Tesco in Merton and those objecting to the grant of the licence appealed against the decision. Acted for Tesco in defending the appeal jointly with the London Borough of Merton.
  • Obtained a wedding licence for Hanbury Manor (Marriot Hotels) following changes to the licensing regime and the guidance for the whole of the grounds of the hotel.

Keystone Law

At Keystone Law, Gareth Hughes has over 20 years’ experience in the licensing field, where he continues to demonstrate his stellar reputation securing licences for clients in complex geographical areas, such as the Shoreditch Special Policy Area, Westminster Stress areas and the Camden Special Policy Area. Andrew Wong, who high-profile clients praise for being ‘exceptionally good in tough cases’, advises on a number of large-scale redevelopments, restaurants and bars, most recently on projects in central London. ‘Truly outstanding’ Marcus Lavell represents some of the leading nightclubs and bars in the West End, while Niall McCann is highly recommended for contentious matters. Craig Baylis joined the team as a consultant solicitor in October 2022.

Other key lawyers:

Andrew Wong; Niall McCann; Gareth Hughes; Marcus Lavell; Craig Baylis


‘This is one of the best and most experienced teams in licensing.’

‘Marcus Lavell: truly outstanding. Excellent knowledge in this area, great client skills and has a good instinct for novel legal points. He really understands the cross-over between licensing and public law.’

‘First-rate group of licensing lawyers.’

‘Andrew Wong is exceptionally good in tough cases involving blue-chip clients, especially hotels, restaurants and bars in central London. Excellent commercial judgment.’

‘Marcus Lavell more junior but provides superb litigation support in difficult matters.’

‘Niall McCann – vastly experienced in licensing matters with excellent judgment.’

‘Effective, connected, good value for money.’

‘The team are knowledgeable and understand the intricacies of licensing law and have a fabulous network of professional contacts to be able to properly advise on the best strategy for the business.’

Key clients

R&f One (UK) Limited

Barworks (Soho) Limited

One Berkeley Trustee (Jersey) Limited and One Berkeley Trustee (Jersey) 2 Limited

Kindred Concepts Limited

Manex Properties Limited

Dna London Limited

The Shuffle Group Limited

Carluccio’s Limited

Immerse London Ltd

William Jeffrey Tottey and Kathleen Mary Tottey

Nightlight Leisure Ltd

Carter Dixon McGill Ltd

Night & Day Cafe Limited

Rockwater Sandbanks and Branksome Limited

Pantechnicon (London) Limited

Fulham Football club

Diageo Great Britain Ltd

The Globe Theatre, Southwark

Vinoteca Ltd

Hippodrome Casino Ltd

Maven Leisure Limited

Hope lease Project and Mint Group Limited

Maven Leisure Limited

J D Wetherspoon Limited

Work highlights

  • Advising Fulham Football Club in relation to the licensing aspects of the club’s redevelopment of the Riverside Stadium and re-licensing of the entire stadium.
  • Assisted Diageo Great Britain Ltd in obtaining licenses in the heart of Westminster in the Covent Garden area for a substantial redevelopment for the Guinness brand to include restaurants, bars and a fully fitted working brewery.
  • Assisted Maven Leisure Limited with an application for new premises licence in the heart of the West End Stress Area in Piccadilly Circus/Shaftesbury Avenue.

Poppleston Allen

According to one client, Poppleston Allen‘s ‘input is worth its weight in gold in what it brings to the transaction’, principally in alcohol-related licensing and gambling regulation. Practice head Lisa Inzani is well regarded for ‘superb‘ ability to ‘look after the interests of her clients’, which range from national restaurant and bar chains to retailers and festival organisers. She is also recognised for her expertise in complex premises licensing matters, particularly in relation to late night venues in Central London. David Inzani – noted for his knowledge of alcohol and entertainment licensing law – is also recommended.

Practice head(s):

Lisa Inzani

Other key lawyers:

David Inzani


‘Lisa Inzani’s knowledge of the licensing profession is incredible. She helps across all aspects and nothing is too much trouble.’

‘A diverse group of dynamic, proactive, experienced and creative lawyers. Adept at achieving client objectives even when they are out of the ordinary.’

‘Very efficient, great communication skills, real willingness to engage with client and other professionals in a collaborative and commercial manner.’

‘I consider the team to be the best licensing consultants in the UK. They are commercially minded and have the ability to explain complex legals/licensing matters in a clear and concise manner.’

‘David Inzani is our main contact and we have always had great confidence in him being able to answer questions and deal with situations.’

‘I have experience only of dealing with the London team of licensing lawyers but the team’s expertise and local knowledge of the London market is superb. Lisa Inzani heads up the office and is very experienced with dealing with all manner of licensing issues and fights hard for her clients. We find the team very responsive and proactive when working alongside clients on licensed premises. Their input is worth its weight in gold in what it brings to the transaction.’

‘Lisa Inzani heads up an able team and is superb at looking after the interests of her clients. Lisa is focused and determined and knows the market inside out. Highly recommended.’

‘Poppleston Allen has been a nationally recognized specialist licensing firm for decades. It’s lawyers at all levels provide considerable strength and depth across all forms of licensing with a substantial client base comprising many of the major operators in the hospitality and gambling sectors.’

Key clients

Thunderbird Fried Chicken.

Rosa’s Thai.

The Wolseley Hospitality Group.

State of Play

Shaftesbury plc.

Point A Hotels


Wagamama Limited.


Market Taverns.

The Park Tower Knightsbridge Hotel

Lovett Enterprises Ltd.

Urban Leisure Group.

Royal Horticultural Society.

Selfridges Retails.

Caprice Holdings / The Birley Group.

Work highlights

  • Obtained new premises licence for wagamama’s flagship restaurant in Marble Arch, which is in a Special Consideration Zone Policy.
  • Obtained a new premises licence for The Carpet Shop nightclub with a 6am closing in Peckham’s Cumulative Impact Zone.
  • Acting for the UK hotel arm of the Far East Consortium (FEC) on the premises licence application for a new Dao by Dorsett Hotel at the Hornsey Town Hall development.

Thomas & Thomas Partners LLP

Licensing boutique Thomas & Thomas Partners LLP houses a ‘fantastic’ and ‘highly capable‘ legal team which is particularly well-known for its work within the London Borough of Westminster. Practice chair Alun Thomas has over 30 years of experience in a host of licensing and related matters, including planning and regulatory criminal proceedings. Managing partner Thomas O’Maoileoin continues to act for a range of hotels, private members clubs and national restaurant groups, drawing on more than two decades of experience in the field. Other key names to note include Jack Spiegler, an alcohol and entertainment licensing specialist who ‘fights hard for his clients to deliver success’ in a variety of settings, both in and out of court.

Practice head(s):

Alun Thomas; Thomas O’Maoileoin

Other key lawyers:

Jack Spiegler


‘They know their business and use their expertise to the client’s advantage.’

‘Alun Thomas is always on hand with the best approach and gives guidance on how best to navigate the licensing lottery.’

‘Thomas & Thomas are a fantastic legal practice. The service is personal and detailed and stratgey is always crystal clear. Their team are highly capable and the success rate we have had with Thomas & Thomas is a testament to our ongong releationship.’

Key clients

Shaftesbury Capital

Soho Estates

Canary Wharf Group PLC

Battersea Power Station


Peninsula London, LP

Cadogan Hotel Partners Ltd

The Goring Hotel Ltd

Estelle Manor Cotswolds (Ennismore)

57 Whitehall Sarl (The OWO)

5 Hertford Street

Maison Estelle Mayfair (Ennismore)


Royal Automobile Club

Carlton Club

British Library

The Royal Parks Agency

KERB (Seven Dials Market)

Lio London Ltd

Murano (Angela Hartnett)

Sketch (Sacred River Limited)

Petersham Nurseries Ltd

Noble Rot Ltd

LW Theatres Group Ltd (Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber)

Delfont Mackintosh Theatres

Sadlers Wells Trust Limited

Nimax Theatres Ltd

Soho Place Theatre (Stardanced Ltd)

The Wardens and Commonalty of the Mystery of Mercers of the City of London (“The Mercers”)

Work highlights

  • Advised 57 Whitehall Sarl in negotiations with the relevant authority and local stakeholders, to successully obtain a license operating hours between 1am and 24 hours.
  • Advised Lio London Ltd, part of the Pacha Group, on application and licensing matters for their first UK club opening in Leicester Square.
  • Acting for the Battersea Power Station Development Company in obtaining 34 provisional licences for the Power Station building, as well as licensing the development’s Chimney Lift, Control Rooms, hotel (Radisson), cinema, restaurant tenants, and large scale events licence across the licensed estate.

John Gaunt & Partners

John Gaunt & Partners‘ sizeable licensing team works fluidly across offices in London and Sheffield. London-based Luke Elford works with a host of clients, from single-site operators to multi-billion-pound national businesses. Michelle Hazlewood is noted for work in the leisure and higher education sectors, among others, while Tim Shield is recommended for his expertise in hotels, alcohol and gaming law. Christopher Grunert‘s capabilities span alcohol, gaming and taxi law, while Gosport-based Jon Wallsgrove is recognised for his work in retail licensing. All other names lawyers are based in Sheffield unless stated otherwise.

Practice head(s):

Luke Elford; Tim Shield; Michelle Hazlewood; Christopher Grunert; Jon Wallsgrove


‘Luke Elford and his colleagues make a great team, they know the business inside out and know how to talk to both clients and relevant authorities to ensure their clients great the results they are looking for.’

‘Luke Elford is straight talking he avoids jargon, he explains things in a down to earth, easy to understand way, he is always helpful and quick to respond to questions.’

‘Top division licensing solicitors with excellent client base and vastly experienced legal team.’

Key clients

Marston’s PLC

Marks & Spencer’s



John Lewis

Sodexo Ltd

Odeon Cinema Group


Portobello Pub Company

Liberation Group

JKS Restaurants Group

Ministry of Sound

1 Warwick

Revolution Bars

Edyn Ltd (Locke)


Jaego House

Chief Office of Police for Northampton

Millennium and Copthorne Hotels


The Devonshire Group

Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew

Southern Co-op

Work highlights

  • Continues to be retained by the BBC to advise on all licensing requirements for the corporation.
  • Secured an extraordinary extension to the licences trading hours for JKS Restaurants Group’s London Michelin Starred Restaurant, Gymkhana.
  • Secured two licence variations for the Incipio Group to allow both extensive refurbishments and extended trading hours for both their Libertine and Palm House premises in central London.


The licensing team at TLT continues to see significant volumes of enforcement work, in addition to its core licensing application instructions. Clients range from developers and local authorities to substantial national estates, hotels, music festival organisers, restaurants and retailers. Practice head Matthew Phipps - based between London and Bristol - is a key port of call for a broad client base, who praise him for his pragmatism and ability to 'inspire confidence in actually getting the result required.’



Practice head(s):

Matthew Phipps


‘We have used TLT for all of our Licencing matters for many years. The TLT team, led by Matthew Phipps, have the best in-depth knowledge of current licensing law and much experience of past cases.’

‘Matthew Phipps, Partner and team leader. Proactive and results driven.’

‘Matthew Phipps is excellent. He is realistic in what can be achieved and inspires confidence in actually getting the result required. Very good communicator with first class people skills, we feel in safe hands with him.’

Key clients

Government Legal Department

Chelsea FC

Flight Club


Pizza Pilgrims

Ambassador Theatre Group

A Man About a Dog

Berkeley Inns Limited

Punch Pubs


Work highlights

  • Advising Chelsea FC on developing the commercial opportunity at Stamford Bridge.
  • Assisted WHS in making applications to vary existing permissions to extend hours for the sale of alcohol, and to relax conditions in relation to the sale of spirit mixers, so as to provide WHS with maximum flexibility in their operation.
  • Undertake general licensing estate management work on behalf of Punch Pubs, across England and Wales.

Woods Whur

The Leeds based team at Woods Whur is ‘incredibly knowledgeable’ in all applications for the sale of alcohol, as well as for dealing with applications of new and varied premises licences. Andrew Woods - who leads the team - has considerable expertise in applications for new licences in all areas within the London market, especially on premises situated within the Cumulative Impact Zone. Christopher Rees-Gay and co-founder Paddy Whur are also highly recommended.


Practice head(s):

Andrew Woods; Paddy Whur

Other key lawyers:

Chris Rees-Gay


Chris and the team were incredibly knowledgeable when tasking them to manage our premises license variation. The plan we submitted came back without any issues and we were very pleased with the way the communicated and dealt with our enquiries / site visits throughout.’

‘Personable, available and are able to advise on matters where it was not considered to be able to achieve the best outcome.’

‘Christopher Rees-Gay is outstanding. Despite the obvious challenges and limitations of the process, and the nature of some very variable quality councillors making the decisions, he was able to steer a clear way ahead with licensing issues.’

Key clients

Everyman Media Limited

Camden Market Management Company Limited

BTG Licenceco Limited

Epic Bars

Heron Foods Limited

Travelodge Limited

Arc Inspirations

Tokyo Industries

Broadwick Venues

London Borough of Newham

TEG Venues UK Limited

Ossett Brewery

Roxy Leisure Limited

Harrods Limited

Adil Group Limited

Mint Festival Limited

Boom Ventures Limited

Cinder Restaurants Limited

MM Canary Wharf Limited

Labyrinth Venues Limited

Work highlights

  • Dealing with a number of successful applications under the Licensing Act 2003 in Cumulative Impact Areas in Camden, in which there is a presumption against the grant of new licences or variations to licences. All applications granted before Camden Licensing Committee.
  • Dealing with a number of applications relating to Everyman Media Limited cinemas, and advice given to them during the pandemic with regard to general trading and regulations.
  • Dealing with the change of corporate ownership from Casual Dining Group to Big Table Group. Specific advice on licensing during the change of corporate ownership and submission of all necessary applications to ensure a smooth transition.

Hugh James

Based in Cardiff, Martin Jones serves as the lead partner at the Hugh James team, drawing on over 20 years’ experience in alcohol and gambling licensing matters - both contentious and non-contentious. He regularly undertakes advocacy before licensing sub-committees and advises on large-scale applications to licence festivals, pub and club applications.

Practice head(s):

Martin Jones

Key clients

True Swing Limited

Depot Warehouse Limited

Hangout Café Limited

Hope’s End Limited

Conspiracy Trading (Cardiff) Limited

Intact Retail Limited

Coal Exchange Operations LLP

Polperro Gin Company Limited

Cwmfelin Social Club

P&R Convenience Store Limited

Intact Management Limited

Golden Square Mart Limited

Tyn-Y-Felin Quarry (Anglesey) Co Ltd

Work highlights

  • Advised True Swing Limited on a premises licence application in an area subject to a problematic cumulative impact assessment.
  • Advised Intact Management Limited on a very urgent transfer application to retain a surrendered premises licence.
  • Advised Depot Warehouse Limited on a number of applications.

Pinsent Masons LLP

With offices across Birmingham and Manchester, Pinsent Masons LLP routinely assists national clients with alcohol licensing applications and amendments, as well as a range of related regulatory issues. Manchester-based Zoe Betts - a specialist in health and safety law - heads the team. Birmingham-based Hannah Burton is experienced in all aspects of licensing applications, often appearing on behalf of clients before licensing sub-committees and appeal hearings.

Practice head(s):

Zoe Betts

Other key lawyers:

Hannah Burton


‘A very strong licensing team, which works in close coordination with its other teams, to bring strength and depth to their advisory work. Licensing and planning are two areas that must be coordinated, and Pinsents are highly experienced in both. They also have quality practitioners in other relevant areas of law.’

‘The team use a really good online portal which makes submitting new instructions and case management easy. The system is straightforward to use and enables you to keep track of any matters with automated emails when necessary. The portal enables effective collaboration and helps with billing transparency. The team at Pinsent Masons LLP make an effort to understand our business and build relationships with our team.’

‘Hannah Burton is extremely experienced, and has specialised in licensing law for many years. She is a keen tactician, and very aware of the detailed requirements of licence applications and appeals.’

Key clients

Doza Swansea Limited (part of the Brick Capitals Group)

Capital Arches Group Limited

Tesco Stores Limited

Diageo plc

Work highlights

  • Advised Capital Arches Group Limited in relation to a variation application for a premises licence held in Westminster City Council area.
  • Advised Legal & General Property Partners (Leisure) Limited in relation to a transfer of a licence to enable them to secure the premises licence and secure a new tenant after the surrender of lease from the current tenant.
  • Advised Doza Swansea Limited in relation to a new application for a premises licence in a student accommodation residential block.

Winckworth Sherwood LLP

Winckworth Sherwood LLP is primarily known for its licensing work in the supermarket and petrol forecourt arenas. Practice head Robert Botkai has several decades worth of experience in alcohol licensing, enforcement and regulatory law in the pub, restaurant, hotel and entertainment sectors.

Practice head(s):

Robert Botkai


‘Excellent understanding of our needs and excellent a long-term working relationship’


Burges Salmon LLP

Burges Salmon LLP handles new premises licence applications, variations and regulatory issues arising from multi-million-pound acquisitions and disposals of licensed premises. In recent months, the team is handling an increase in application-related instructions from hotels, entertainment venues, and restaurants. Practice head Joanne Attwood – well-versed in all manner of licensing, gambling, and gaming issues – is the key name to note.

Practice head(s):

Joanne Attwood


‘All round solid regional law firm. Quality!’

‘Joanne Attwood – exceptional. Great relationship with clients.’

‘Jo Attwood is an expert in her field. Outstanding knowledge and levels of service.’

‘Well resourced, highly regarded firm with top notch staff and legal know how and experience.’

‘Joanne Attwood is a stand-out lawyer with significant experience in the sector and outstanding legal knowledge and commercial awareness. Clients warm to her pragmatic, professional and highly competent manner.’

Key clients

English Heritage

Historic England

University of Bristol

Atlas Hotels Limited

London and Regional Group Hotel Holdings Ltd

Titan Investment Atlas Limited

Zetland Capital

Canadian & Riverside Estates/ Canadian & Portland Estates

Private Individuals

Work highlights

  • Advised English Heritage on a complex Premises Licence major variation application for a London heritage site.
  • Advised University of Bristol on a new application for a Premises Licence within their licensed portfolio of Premises Licences and Club Premises Certificates.
  • Advising a hotel franchise group on the multi-million-pound acquisition of multiple licensed hotel properties covering various licensing regimes.

Squire Patton Boggs

Lead partner Stephanie Perraton – based in Squire Patton Boggs‘ Birmingham office – continues to work with longstanding restaurants and retail operators located in transport hubs and motorway services areas, assisting on licensing applications and all matters related to alcohol, entertainment and late night food sales.

Practice head(s):

Stephanie Perraton

Key clients

Leonardo Hotel Management (UK) Ltd


Select Service Partner Ltd

One Stop Stores

RBH Hotel Management

Valor Hospitality

DTP Hospitality

West Bromwich Albion (internal referral)

Juniper Hotels (external referral)

Fattal Properties (Ireland) Limited (external referral)

Guesthouse Hotels (external referral)

Work highlights

  • Managing all aspects of the licensed estate for Select Service Partner nationally, which includes units at mainline stations, international airports, service stations and shopping centres throughout the UK.
  • Advising One Stop Stores, who operate over 700 retail convenience stores in England and Wales.
  • Applications for licence to allow music events at West Bromwich Albion’s Stadium. Role included strategic advice to the client regarding proposed application ahead of a Queen musical event, negotiation with the police to agree conditions, preparing the draft application and submission to the Council, plus dealing with objections to agree further conditions. Licence successfully granted.