Transfer of a Hong Kong Liquor License

Application for Transfer of a Liquor Licence

This is a short discussion on transferring liquor licenses in the most simple set of circumstances one could imagine. It’s covered under the form FEHB 106 B, which you can see a copy of in the link below.

The issue of transferring a liquor licence is a very personal thing and it’s not normally something that would trigger a hearing of the Liquor Licensing Board if everything has been in order and it’s not normally contentious if the person who is to have the liquor licence is fit and proper, has a good track record, and after being interviewed by the Police is found to not cause any difficulties in their view, In terms of personal repute.

Difficulties, however, can occur when transfer applications trigger objections by people other than the Police, or even by the Police, who might try to exploit the moment that a transfer application is made in order to impose additional conditions or trigger a hearing of the Liquor Licensing Board. Not necessarily because there’s a problem with the person who’s applying, but because something else about the premises is of concern.

I’m not going to go into too much detail about that except to just explain some of the ‘top line’ things in relation to the form, which is fundamentally very similar to the application for a liquor licence.

You can also go to the application for a liquor licence explanation to hear a discussion on various areas that are replicated. 

Application Overview

For the purposes of clarity, please understand the following: 

When an application for a transfer is made, the person who’s making the application to the Liquor Licensing Board is not the person who is leaving. It is not the current licence holder. It is the applicant. It is the person who does not have a liquor licence.  

So, the involvement of the existing licence holder is incredibly limited. It is however important because if the transfer is refused. The current liquor licence holder will continue to hold a valid liquor licence. A lot of people forget this. 

 So if a transfer application fails, for any reason, fails to be approved. It does not mean the licence is ended; if it is still valid. It simply means it will continue to be in force in the name of the current holder. 

 So, let’s just look at the details on the form. The first couple of pages are really only in relation to the individual, things like the shop sign, the existing licence number, and addresses. Those all have to be accurately completed, pretty self-explanatory. 

Just take all the information off the existing liquor licence. That will avoid any confusion whatsoever. 

Reasons for Transfer of the HK Liquor Licence

 The form then asks what the reason for the transfer is, and it gives three possibilities: 

  • One is licensee cannot be on duty on the premises  – that relates to basically the personal duty of the licensee to supervise the premises anyway. So it could be for illness, it could be for personal reasons, it could be to have a child or we really don’t know. 

  • The second option is resignation or retirement –  that’s if somebody intends to leave or has left. 

  • Transfer of share or business – that’s an interesting one that might happen.  

  • Others please specify –  that is, again, as open as you like.  

Frankly speaking, anybody can apply to have a licence for a premises and they can do so for just about any reason they can dream up.  

But remember that when they’re making the application in this case, somebody will already have a licence for that premises. There’ll be a licence that’s valid, and it will be held in the name of an individual. 

So, what do we do about that? Well, we then fast forward to the end of the form which is page 16, which says there’s the consent of the current liquor licence holder to transfer the liquor licence to the applicant. 

Simply put the Liquor Licensing Board basically doesn’t want to have to deal with contentious matters where an existing licence holder is not willing to give up a licence, such as in a company dispute, an employment dispute or any other form of friction.  

The easiest way for them not to have to look at that is to have the consent of the current licence holder to transfer signed and dated, as with that in hand, there’s no problem.  

However, the biggest issue that arises very often in the industry is the current licence holder does not want to sign. That can create a great deal of complexity, which I am not going to go into in this section.  

In closing, in relation to transfers; these are normally quite easy to execute, and they normally don’t cause any difficulties, although the inbound applicant will be asked to attend a Police interview and give a statement, they will have their criminal records checked, they will have their backgrounds checked. 

 With a bit of luck, if there are no difficulties or other changes involved and no friction with an outgoing licence holder; a transfer of a licence is not normally an issue that the Liquor Licensing Board concerns itself with in open session and doesn’t normally lead to any complexity and the completion of forms. 

Provided, as I’ve said that nothing has changed. But any small changes that look like they might be amendments or adjustments to the way it trades or the way the business operates, hours and the like; may be of effect. 

If any of those crept into this form, which are different from the application form based upon which the licence was issued. It will create difficulties, and you will be asked whether or not you wish to make amendments and the like. 

It’s absolutely essential when completing one of these forms that you have in the file, and in front of you, the actual form that was completed to obtain the liquor licence in the first place.  

For some of you, that might be rather difficult if that was done 20 years ago. However, if it was 20 years ago, you’ll have last year’s renewal form; at least, follow that.

Any information contained in this overview should not be construed as legal advice and is not intended to be a substitute for legal counsel on any subject matter.