Category Archive: Licensing Gambling

Tapyard Studios creates new bar and music offering

A new bar/cafe venue in Newcastle will also create opportunities for the region’s next generation of music talent through providing studio and performing space.

Tapyard Studios is to open in Hoult’s Yard and will offer leisure and meeting space with café during the day and a relaxed bar by night, with a focus on music throughout.

The venue will offer three studios and a 300-capacity performance space which can hold live gigs, and will offer new opportunities to performers from across the North East and greater variety for music lovers.

Tapyard Studios, which will officially open on Saturday, is created by entrepreneur Sam Roberts, who is relocating to Newcastle to establish the venture after managing a bar and music venue in Leeds and seeing the potential for such a business.

Committed to helping to develop the next generation of musical talent, Sam also owns We Are Heard, a venture which enables schools to generating funding though recording and selling their own albums of songs and works with thousands of pupils across the country.

And through Tapyard Studios, Sam – who is financing the venue himself – hopes to add further to both Newcastle’s leisure and music scenes with the creation of his first venue.

“The place I used to work in Leeds was amazing, unfortunately it closed despite its rapidly increasing popularity with a really diverse crowd. I saw the potential for a model which brought a bar and cafe together with music studio and rehearsal space. It was a really magical combination,” he said.

“I looked all around Leeds and in various other cities to find the perfect venue. I found this place at Hoult’s Yard and it ticked every box and decided to go for it, so I have now moved to Newcastle.

“I have played in bands my whole life and care about music and creating opportunities, so I am really excited to open Tapyard Studios and help support existing and future talent.”

Sam has been supported with his opening by Sarah Smith, head of licensing at Sintons, who secured the licensing of the premises.

“I’m not from Newcastle and wasn’t sure where to go, but Sarah was recommended and I am so pleased to have met her. She has been so dependable and is so knowledgeable, and I’m really grateful for the support from day one,” says Sam.

Sarah Smith adds: “Sam is absolutely committed to music and to creating opportunities for the next generation – the success of We Are Heard shows his ethos and values, and it’s fantastic he is now creating a venue to take this commitment even further.

“Tapyard Studios will bring even more diversity to Newcastle’s vibrant leisure scene, with an informal bar/cafe offering combining with the music aspect to create something really exciting for the city.”

Protect Duty (Martyn’s Law) Bill Update

On 19 December 2022, the Secretary of State for the Home Department Suella Braverman, made a statement announcing the foundational policy elements that will form the basis of the upcoming Protect Duty Bill (also known as Martyn’s Law).

The proposed Martyn’s Law will seek to improve the safety and security of citizens so they can enjoy public premises without fear of terrorism by improving protective security and organisational preparedness at a wide range of locations across the UK, including visiting venues, retail areas, and other publicly accessible venues. Those responsible will be required to consider the threat from terrorism and implement appropriate, proportionate mitigation measures. The two primary objectives for Martyn’s Law will be to i) clarify who is responsible for security activity at locations in scope, thereby increasing accountability; and ii) improve outcomes UK- wide so that security activity is delivered to a consistent level. An inspection and enforcement regime will seek to educate, advise, and ensure compliance with Martyn’s Law.

Legislation will establish a tiered model, introducing a requirements framework that is linked to the type of activity that takes place at eligible locations and the number of people (occupancy) that the location can safely accommodate at any time. The requirements for each tier are:

  • Standard- locations with a maximum occupancy of greater than 100 people at any time will be required to undertake low-cost, simple yet effective activities to improve protective security and preparedness. This will be achieved by accessing free awareness raising materials and development of a basic preparedness plan considering how best a location can respond to a terrorist event in their area.
  • Enhanced- locations with an occupancy of 800+ at any time will additionally be required to take forward a risk assessment and subsequently develop and implement a security plan. Enhanced Duty Holders will be required to meet a reasonably practicable test.

Locations with a maximum occupancy at any time of less than 100 will fall out of scope but will be encouraged to adopt good security practices on a voluntary basis. This will be supported by free guidance and training materials.

Premises will fall within scope of Martyn’s Law where “qualifying activities” take place. This will include activities such as entertainment and leisure, retail, food and drink, museums and galleries, sports grounds, public areas of local and central Government buildings (e.g., town halls), visitor attractions, temporary events, Places of Worship, health, and education. It is proposed that Martyn’s Law will apply to eligible locations which are either: a building (including collections of buildings used for the same purposes, e.g., a campus); or location/event (including a temporary event) that has a defined boundary, allowing capacity to be known. Eligible locations whose maximum occupancy meets the above specified thresholds will be then drawn into the relevant tier.

To deliver clarity of To deliver clarity of accountability, Martyn’s Law will define parties obliged to meet its requirements. This will be a simple formulation to establish persons in control of premises. Where there are multiple parties at a location, Martyn’s Law will primarily place obligations on a lead party whilst placing requirements on others to co-operate with that party, such as in the development of risk assessments and security plans. Martyn’s Law Guidance will detail how and where it would be envisaged that parties will need to co-ordinate on assessments and plans and provide examples of good practice.

Enforcement will mainly be delivered through a civil sanctions regime. In all but the most serious cases a civil monetary penalty is likely to be issued. For cases of serious breaches, a limited number of criminal offences will be available. A maximum penalty of up to £18m or 5% of worldwide turnover will be available for Enhanced locations. Standard locations will be subject to a maximum £10,000 penalty.

The government continues to engage with a range of stakeholders and other government departments to further develop the legislation, which will be introduced to Parliament at the earliest opportunity.

Sintons once again wins praise from Legal 500 2024

Sintons has again confirmed its position as one of the leading law firms in the North of England with the release of Legal 500 2024, which highlights the expertise and client service excellence delivered by departments and key individuals across the business.

Newcastle-based Sintons has won praise across the firm for the high levels of legal advice and personal service it delivers, and it is highlighted in four key practice areas as being leaders in its field in the North of England, and being recommended in 15 others.

A total of 48 lawyers are recommended for their standout practice in their respective fields, with fifteen of its lawyers hailed as leading individuals, which comprises experts in their field from across the North. Head of licensing Sarah Smith maintains her place in the Legal 500 Hall of Fame, in recognition of being a leading individual consistently for more than a decade.

A further four are named as next generation partners, and four hailed as rising stars.

While Sintons has for many years continually been named by Legal 500 as one of the key law firms in the North, its rankings for 2024 show the firm’s ongoing growth and progress, with gains made in many key practice areas.

Newly released for 2024, Legal 500 is based on extensive research into law firms throughout the UK, with its independent findings based on examples of work, client and peer testimonials and interviews.

In Legal 500 2024, Sintons is named as a top tier firm in:

Its leading individuals have been named as:

Next generation partners have been hailed as:

Rising stars are:

Christopher Welch, managing partner of Sintons, says: “This is a phenomenal and very well deserved assessment of our performance as a firm. We are ranked as leaders in our field in several key practice areas, with Legal 500 rightly recognising the huge capability and expertise we have here, and the progress we continue to make.

“Sintons is all about our people, and to see so many recognised for the outstanding efforts they make on behalf of our clients is fantastic news. We have excellence running throughout the business, in all areas of our work, and our team are all absolutely committed to delivering the best possible service and outcomes to our clients.”

Shoe Shaker Fest supported by Sintons

Plans for an outdoor dance music festival in the region have been supported to become reality by law firm Sintons.

Shoe Shaker Fest is being held in Cramlington and brings together a host of major dance acts across two stages. It has been hailed as a “dream come true” by its organiser.

The festival, held next to Northumberlandia on August 5, is anticipating thousands of attendees to enjoy dance acts including Andy Whitby, DJ Sash!, Fragma, Cappella and QFX.

Shoe Shaker Fest, the first event of its kind in Cramlington, has been organised by Kathie Turnbull, who has worked in the local wedding and events industry for over 20 years as part of her award-winning family business.

“I have always wished and wanted to hold festival events as far back as I can remember and my previous experience has given me the background and knowledge to execute a larger event,” she said.

“I believe I have been moulded during my time in business to bring something big to my home town Cramlington, putting my town back on the map.

“The dream is not just to have a one-off event in Cramlington as we hope this is the start of many more to come.

“I never in a million years thought this would be possible, to have so many original acts in one place.”

Kathie was supported in securing the licence for the event by Sarah Smith at Sintons, one of the leading licensing lawyers in the North of England.

“Sarah was just fantastic, she was brilliant to work with and has enabled my dream of holding a festival like this to become a reality. I’m very grateful for her support throughout,” said Kathie.

Sarah Smith, consistently top-ranked by Legal 500 for her work in supporting leisure operators and entrepreneurs nationally, said: “As a seasoned events organiser, Kathie had an ambition to do something on a much bigger scale, and has worked so hard to put this together.

“It is fantastic news for Cramlington and the wider area that Shoe Shaker Fest is taking place and will attract guests from across the North East and beyond.

“We are very pleased to have been able to support Kathie in making this possible and wish her every success in putting on the festival.”

Support remains in place for pandemic rent arrears

Alok Loomba looks at tenant operators’ rights under the Commercial Rent (Coronavirus) Act 2022 and the circumstances in which they may be reassured amidst the latest economic crisis.

After suffering what can only be described as the most challenging conditions faced by the leisure sector in a generation, during the COVID-19 pandemic, with enforced closure for much of 2020 and some of 2021, leisure  businesses are, at last, starting to get back on their feet.

The return of a thriving leisure scene in the North East is encouraging to see, the leisure  and hospitality sector having for decades been integral to the local economy, with operators now able to take full advantage of the growth in confidence within the market – both locally and as a result of tourism – since those tentative steps out of lockdown in 2021.

However, while COVID lockdowns now appear to be a distant memory, leisure operators are now facing a new set of challenges. Recruitment and soaring energy costs are proving to be ongoing and persistent challenges and the cost-of-living crisis looms large over the sector, with soaring costs already biting and these look set to get even worse as the months go on. Whether footfall will be impacted as consumers look to shore up their own finances remains to be seen. Will entertaining and socializing take the hit – as customers struggle to make their disposable income meet the basics? It’s possible that these factors may reduce turnover and profit margins for leisure businesses, thereby increasing the financial squeeze.

It’s not just the cost-of-living crisis that has leisure operators concerned. Many tenant operators are still under the shadow of arrears owed to their landlords that remain outstanding from the height of the pandemic. There is potentially one bit of reassurance for leisure businesses amidst the developing economic situation, with regard to outstanding rent arrears incurred during the COVID pandemic.

Amidst closure, or being forced  to significantly revise their offering, for the best part of 16 months, many operators incurred sizeable debts around their rents, which remained due to landlords even though the premises were unoccupied or used to a small proportion of their normal capacity.

The Coronavirus Act 2020 afforded protection against eviction to those who were unable to pay their rent, although the total ban on forfeiture of commercial premises ended on 25 March 2022.

In its place has arrived the Commercial Rent (Coronavirus) Act 2022= (“CIRCA 2022), which ringfences outstanding unpaid rent built up during periods of forced closure of businesses during lockdowns and offers tenants protection for these.

While agreement between landlord and tenant is encouraged over these protected debts – which a specialist advisor can support – if this is not possible, the Act introduces a legally binding arbitration route to achieve resolution, with a supporting Code of Practice. The CRCA 2022 provided a six-month window in which a referral to the statutory arbitration scheme could be made. This ended on 23 September 2022, however the CRCA 2022 will continue to apply where a valid referral was made during the six-month window. Court proceedings to recover debts cannot be issued while arbitration remains an option.

Furthermore, a landlord cannot use these protected debts that fall within the CRCA 2022 to terminate a lease or enforce an eviction, providing there has been no actionable breach by the tenant – affording further protection to leisure operators who have faced such huge pressures since March 2020.

The route of finding a positive way forward through co-operation, or else arbitration, between landlord and tenant is one which will hopefully bring confidence to leisure businesses with knowledge that they remain safe in their premises, as debts incurred between 21 March 2020 and the date when specific restrictions on the relevant sector were removed, are protected. This is subject to a cut-off point of 18th July 2021 in England and 7 August 2021 in Wales. By way of example, in England, the protected period for non-essential retail will be between 21 March 2020 and 12 April 2021; for nightclubs, it will be  21 March 2021 to 18 July 2021.

As the trade looks to the months ahead and considers the impact of the developing cost of living crisis, we hope the Commercial Rent (Coronavirus) Act 2022 will continue to give them breathing space from the legacy of the COVID pandemic.

For any concerns around the implications of the Act, what it means for your business, or support in negotiating with your landlord, our leisure team will be able to assist.

Don’t get caught out!

Taxi drivers need to be aware of falling foul of council’s licensing policies and breaching the conditions that apply to their hackney carriage and private hire driver licences. Failure to comply can result in the loss of their licence, which can have serious consequences for their livelihood.

Licensing policies and conditions are in place to ensure that taxi drivers operate safely and legally, whilst also protecting passengers and the wider public.

They often include requirements relating to the following:

Reporting Incidents to the Licensing Committee

Policies regularly require drivers to report any incidents to the licensing authority within a certain deadline. This includes accidents, criminal convictions, and any other incidents that could affect their ability to drive safely or professionally, including attendance at a speed awareness course. Failure to report matters often lead to drivers being asked to attend before a licensing committee.

Driver Conduct and Professionalism

Councils licensing policies may have requirements for drivers relating to conduct and professionalism. This includes requirements such as dress code, communication and timeliness. If complaints are received relating to these matters drivers may find themselves being asked to attend an interview with the licensing officer or a hearing before the licensing committee.

Compliance with Regulations

Taxi drivers must comply with all relevant regulations, including those related to vehicle safety, insurance, and licensing. This includes having a valid hackney carriage or private hire licence, insurance coverage, and a safe and roadworthy vehicle. The council carry out regular checks and inspections to ensure compliance with these regulations. Failure to comply can result in penalties or the loss of a licence.

Drivers need to be aware of the council’s licensing policies and conditions. If in doubt, ask. And if you do find yourself being called before the licensing committee, seek advice. Investing in legal assistance at an early stage can often save time, money and worry in the long run.

Sintons can help and support taxi drivers.

Intellectual Property or Just Clever Buildings?

Some of the iconic buildings and structures in the North East have built up a resonance with the public in a way that makes them very tempting to use for commercial purposes in advertising and promotion. The Angel of the North, the Gateshead Millennium Bridge, Bamburgh Castle to name a few.

Is the use of photographs or other representations of these buildings and structures without risk?

What is protected by Copyright?

Work that is protected by copyright under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 (CDPA) includes artistic work which includes a work of architecture being a building or a model for a building; and graphic works which includes diagrams, drawings, maps, charts and plans.

What is permitted?

Copyright in (a) buildings, and (b) sculptures and models for buildings, if permanently situated in a public place or in premises open to the public, is not infringed by making a graphic work representing it, photographing or filming of it, or making a broadcast of a visual image of it (the so called section 62 exception).

So, in general, it is permitted to take a photograph or drawing of a building which is in a public place. If you are the photographer or artist, you will also be the first owner of the copyright in the photographs or drawings and be entitled to commercially exploit your work. However, there are always exceptions and other areas of risk to watch out for. I have set out some tips to help you avoid problems in the future.


  • You need to ensure you know the building is in a public place, as many areas that you may think are public are in actual fact privately owned. For example, many museums, art galleries, stately homes, public attractions, churches and football grounds are on private land and you would need the permission of the landowner in order to be able to commercialise your photos, or even just take photos, in these places.
  • There are also some public places that have byelaws preventing commercial photography without obtaining prior written consent, such as in Trafalgar Square and Parliament Square.
  • The Eiffel Tower in Paris falls within the public domain but its lighting and sparkling lights are protected by copyright so professional use of images of the Eiffel Tower at night require prior authorisation.
  • Care should also be taken when taking photos of 2D graphical works such as posters, artwork or commissioned murals which are located in public places. Making copies of those works could be an infringement of copyright and therefore you should carry out some due diligence as to ownership and permissions required.
  • If the building is still within the term of copyright protection (which normally lasts for the life of the architect plus 70 years) then you will need the permission of the copyright owner to make a physical 3D reproduction of a building.
  • Permission may be required to reproduce any trademarks (names and logos) that are visible on a building.
  • Although the law in the UK is uncertain regarding privacy, you should be careful when including in your work, pictures of people in a public place.

Legal advice should always be obtained prior to embarking on a business venture that reproduces images of iconic buildings or other artistic or graphical works.

‘Excellent’ licensing team wins further independent praise

The “excellent track record” and deep legal expertise of Sintonslicensing team has seen the firm hailed as one of the leading specialist advisors of its kind in the country.

Sintons is known on a national basis for its capability in licensing, acting for leisure entrepreneurs and operators on both contentious and non-contentious matters and supporting them to achieve their visions.

Chambers praises Sintons for its “adept” handling of licences in cumulative impact zones, and for its expertise in a range of specialist matters, including sexual entertainment, retail, leisure, food and drink and taxi licensing.

Contested licensing issues are a “particular strength” of the firm, says Chambers, and its experience in advising on temporary licences is also key in its offering.

Head of licensing Sarah Smith, regularly hailed as one of the leading licensing lawyers in the North, is described as “the licensing solicitor par excellence, dedicated and committed to her client’s cause”.

The national praise for Sintons’ capability from Chambers comes only weeks after Legal 500 2023 shared similarly positive findings, awarding a top-tier ranking and hailing Sintons as a true leader in its field, as the go-to licensing advisor for clients across the sector.

“Our licensing team is the go-to advisor for leisure operators on a national basis, with our deep understanding of the leisure market and client-focused approach setting us apart,” says Christopher Welch, managing partner of Sintons.

“The findings from Chambers are rightful recognition of the excellent work of the team, which is continuing to expand across the UK on the strength of its stellar reputation in this very specialist area of work – under the leadership of Sarah Smith, who is again named as a national leader in her field, licensing continues to be a very strong area of growth for us.”

Licensing team top-rated again by Legal 500 2023

The licensing team at Sintons has again been confirmed as one of the leaders in its field in the North of England by Legal 500 2023, with its legal expertise and commitment to clients again setting it apart in the marketplace.

Sintons’ licensing team acts for a range of clients, from individual operators to major national leisure groups, and handles matters from new applications through to license variations, appeals and defending reviews of licences.

Legal 500 points to its expertise in handling “particularly challenging” applications in special stress or cumulative impact policy areas, with its “good working relationship with local authority licensing officers throughout the North East” being key in the positive outcomes it routinely secures for clients.

Head of licensing Sarah Smith – praised for her “immense knowledge of licensing” – maintains her position in the Legal 500 Hall of Fame, in recognition of being named as a leading individual in the North consistently for more than ten years.

Legal 500 quotes one testimonial: “Sarah Smith is one of the best licensing solicitors in the country. Her friendly and approachable style belies a steely determination to achieve the best outcome for our clients.

“She is well known and well liked by committees and responsible authorities. She has immense knowledge of licensing and the sector and her applications are always comprehensively tested before being made.”

Christopher Welch, managing partner of Sintons, says: “Our licensing team is the go-to advisor for leisure operators across the North of England and nationally, with our deep understanding of the leisure market and client-focused approach setting us apart.

“The renewal of our top-tier ranking by Legal 500 2023 is rightful recognition of the work of the licensing team, who continue to win work nationally on the strength of its stellar reputation in this very specialist area of work.

“Sarah Smith continues to be a stand-out name in this area regionally and indeed nationally. She is the longstanding trusted advisor to countless leisure entrepreneurs and businesses, supporting with both contentious and non-contentious matters to secure the best possible outcome for her client and their ambitions. To be in the Legal 500 Hall of Fame is endorsement of the highest quality of lawyer – our congratulations to Sarah on again being part of this prestigious group.”

Horticulture secures permission to open a new sister venue with support from Sintons

A popular Newcastle bar and restaurant has secured permission to open a new sister venue next door to its current site.

Horticulture has become a go-to venue for many in the city’s leisure scene since its opening on Market Street in 2019.

Now, it has been granted permission to expand into the former Don Vito’s site next door, to create Pepo – a bar and restaurant offering high end cocktails and sharing platters.

Pepo – which will see over £250,000 of investment – will have its own menu and a distinct vibe, but although its design will follow that of Horticulture and will complement the current offering.

Approval was given for the expansion by Newcastle City Council’s licensing sub-committee, with the client supported in their application by law firm Sintons, overcoming opposition from a nearby operator to secure a variation to its license.

Head of licensing Sarah Smith – one of the leading lawyers in the North of England who acts for a host of major leisure operators – advised Horticulture on its application.

Barrister Charles Holland represented the client at the sub-committee hearing and highlighted the importance of new venues opening around Pilgrim Street, given the major regeneration plans for the area, including the new HMRC headquarters and Bank House development.

Sarah Smith said: “Horticulture has become a hugely popular venue in Newcastle’s leisure economy and has gained a reputation as a must-visit for many regulars and visitors to the city alike.

“The fact they are now expanding is excellent news for the city, expanding the selection of high-quality bar and restaurant premises even further through the creation of Pepo.

“The offering will complement the hugely successful Horticulture, whilst bringing a new food and drink menu, making the area even more attractive to visitors to the City”.

“We are very pleased this application was granted and wish our client every success with the creation of this enhanced venue, and the promotion of the new Horticulture and Pepo offering.”

COVID-19 vaccine passes and vaccination status checks – are you privacy compliant?

In addition to Government guidance and Covid-19 safety measures, business owners should consider whether its processing of Covid-19 pass information meets the requirements under the Data Protection Act 2018.

A visitor’s Covid-19 status constitutes health data, a type of special category of personal data under UK data protection laws. Compliance obligations around processing this type of personal data are more onerous, due to its inherent sensitivity, and a failure to comply with the 2018 Act could lead to sanctions issued by the ICO, the UK Regulator responsible for data protection matters.

For operators, where you do check or record people’s Covid-19 status, you must justify this in terms of what you collect, what you do with the information, how long you keep it for, and how you keep it secure, amongst other things. The Data Protection Act 2018 requires that you ensure the collection of visitors Covid-19 status is necessary, clear and transparent. What you do with this information should be set out in your Privacy Notice, statement or policy.

The same applies for those employees from whom you seek a vaccination status. An employee has the right to understand what information is held about them, and the easiest way to demonstrate this is with an Employee Privacy Notice. The processing of employee personal data must be fair and justifiable in all the circumstances and where you operate a business with a sizeable number of employees, you should carefully consider the purpose for retaining an employee’s vaccination status long-term.

Remember that the cornerstones of the 2018 Act are transparency and accountability, and that even where you are acting in line with government guidance, this must be demonstrated by your policy documents.

Article from our North East Leisure Supplement 2022, produced in conjunction with Sanderson Weatherall.

Louise Weatherhead Associate at or 0191 226 3699.

Is the Hospitality Industry at Breaking Point?

The hospitality industry is often regarded as a springboard into the workplace for many young people but recently the UK has experienced rising staff shortages, with job vacancies at their highest levels since records began.

Covid-19 and Brexit have been cited as contributing to the problem. Since the start of the pandemic, 1 in 5 workers have left the sector, according to industry bodies such as Hospitality UK.

Prior to the pandemic, the hospitality industry employed 3.2m people and was the UK’s third largest private sector employer, with vacancies consistently around 90,000.

Figures from the Office for National Statistics reveal that job vacancies in the industry were already at high levels before the UK went into in lockdown in March 2020.

Much of this shortfall could be attributed to the perceived culture of very long working-hours and low wages. Hospitality insiders suggest that some shortages, particularly of chefs, waiting staff and restaurant managers, are being seen because the Government reopened the whole economy at the same time and so everybody is looking for staff. Hospitality UK state that the industry can return to pre-pandemic levels of demand by the start of 2022, but warns it is “undoubtedly going to take the industry a long time to recover”.

The situation could be seen as a “reset moment” with employers looking at working conditions, training, and skills development.

Staff shortages are impacting on hospitality businesses in many ways – with reduced opening hours, it is highly likely that with overworked teams, customer service will suffer alongside reputational damage and an increase in complaints. Pressure on existing staff where they are covering multiple job roles that they may not be trained or qualified to do. Pressure on staff who are training new staff and the time and effort this takes alongside trying to do their own jobs.

With increasing challenges facing the hospitality industry, it is important to ensure that all staff are fully trained ahead of starting their first shift.

By ignoring the importance of workplace training, you could risk:

  • An increase in workplace accidents, decreased staff morale and increased absence. There is a legal obligation to ensure staff are provided with adequate health and safety training.
  • Inadequately trained staff are likely to experience poor job performance and increased levels of work-related stress.
  • Lack of training leads to staff feeling undervalued, which will reduce workplace productivity, loyalty and engagement.


Article from our North East Leisure Supplement 2022, produced in conjunction with Sanderson Weatherall.

Mark Quigley Partner at or 0191 226 4899.

Managing Unpredictability

For businesses operating in the leisure industry, to say the last 24 months have been turbulent would be an understatement, with Covid-19 and Brexit combining to create significant challenges for operators.

On January 1, 2020, the UK’s departure from the European Union became a reality. Little over two months later, on March 23, the UK went into lockdown as the result of a global pandemic.

These two successive events have really affected the leisure and hospitality industry.

As we move into 2022, the operational difficulties faced by the pandemic are clear. Staffing is sporadic, menus are reduced, outlets are closing, there is a strain covering for absent colleagues and employers need to manage Covid-19 in the workplace and consider how to move forward.

How to keep staff and customers safe?

Whilst it would be hoped workers and customers would take a sensible view if they contract Covid-19, ending free testing and changing statutory sick pay and isolation payments at the same time could create a scenario where individuals, avoid taking tests, don’t communicate a positive test, don’t isolate or unknowingly walk around with the virus.

It is therefore important that employers update risk assessments to reflect the probability that Covid-19 may be coming into the workplace.

Forced vaccinations?

Workers with Covid-19 no longer need to isolate. It may therefore be worth considering a contractual change forcing those with Covid-19 to remain at home, on pay to avoid spreading the virus.

It is important to assess how this will work in practice, for example, how long will the isolation period be, what pay will employees get whilst isolating and how they will evidence having Covid-19?

How to entice applicants to the industry?

As a consequence of Brexit, workers no longer have freedom of movement. Employers need to sponsor individuals to work in the UK who are not settled workers or who do not have some other immigration permission allowing them to work in the UK.

This has naturally had a significant impact on recruitment in the industry and can be seen by the number of unfilled posts. In December 2021, there were 163,000 unfilled posts in the leisure industry, a marked increase from 75,000 unfilled posts in December 2019.

One of our national clients, Motel One, has seen its non-UK national workforce reduce from 60 per cent to 30 per cent. That being said, its chain of hotels is expanding across the globe and while applications are reduced, calibre remains high. So, it may not be all doom and gloom.

So, what can you do?

Consider paying above the National Living Wage to attract applicants. The job site Indeed reported that wages in the leisure industry have increased by 4.6 per cent and employers need to remain competitive.

Also, engage workers on a guaranteed hours contract, with an option for overtime rather than a casual worker contract. Whilst the flexibility of casual arrangements can be beneficial, the certainty of hours provides security which is attractive to all in uncertain times.

What if I cannot provide work for the full workforce?

Unfortunately, in the last 24 months, restructures and redundancies have been commonplace. A restructure is not a temporary measure, it imposes a permanent change and so you may want to consider other avenues first. Check if your contracts permit lay-off or as an alternative staff may be amenable to a temporary change to their contract if it protects the job role longer term.

If redundancies do become necessary ensure that you follow a fair and transparent process and be mindful that 20 or more dismissals from the same establishment within a 90-day period will trigger collective consultation obligations.

Article from our North East Leisure Supplement 2022, produced in conjunction with Sanderson Weatherall.

Angela Carver Associate in Employment at 0r 0191 226 7824.

Ladhar Group acquisition paves way for sector resurgence

Despite the hugely difficult conditions for leisure operators, we have continued to see ambition and investment in preparation for the recovery and future prosperity of the industry.

While some have been forced to scale back, and others have sadly ceased trading altogether, others have weathered the storm as they look to emerge stronger from the other side.

Operators across the North East and beyond have taken the opportunity to invest in their premises, diversify their offering and sometimes add new properties to their portfolio. For tenants, landlord incentives have enticed them to move into buildings which have lost their occupiers during the pandemic, helping to revive town and city centres in the process.

But for some operators, their confidence in the future of their operation and the wider sector has seen major movement, huge investment and significant ambition.

One of the biggest leisure deals in the North East scene in recent years has been the acquisition of the Sir John Fitzgerald group by the Ladhar Group – both family-owned, longstanding operators in the region’s leisure economy, with Sir John Fitzgerald dating from the 1850s.

The deal – named Property Deal of the Year at the North East Property Awards 2021 – comprised the purchase of 16 leisure businesses and their associated properties, and retains ownership of a famous North East brand within the region.

The transaction was completed by Sintons, as the longstanding advisor to Ladhar Group, and was completed during a lockdown period with all parties working remotely – quite a feat to achieve, and certainly a deal like no other I have worked on, but a fantastic outcome for both businesses and the region.

The Ladhar Group have long been a hugely ambitious leisure business in the region, with an array of highly popular venues in central Newcastle which continue to see investment to ensure their offering is at the top of their game, and ongoing plans for the redevelopment of other areas of the city.

Their move to acquire another leisure business, despite the huge challenges that faced the leisure industry at that time, was brave and showed great leadership in the sector for others to follow by giving a very timely endorsement of the strength of the North East’s hospitality sector and the fact it would rise again.

Whether working with premises they already occupy, or looking to acquire new or different ones, the confidence that is returning to the sector – as well as North East town and city centres – makes this a great time to explore options and exercise ambition.

Article from our North East Leisure Supplement 2022, produced in conjunction with Sanderson Weatherall.

Alok Loomba Partner in Real Estate at Sintons – 0191 226 7843.

Covid-19 Bounce Back

When we sat down to discuss our annual North East Leisure Supplement two years ago, we planned to highlight the peaks and troughs experienced by the leisure industry over the previous 12 months, as we had done routinely for years. Neither of us could have imagined, within a few weeks of that meeting, that such monumental and world changing events would have taken place. We decided not to proceed with our publication at that time, as it felt inappropriate to be expressing views on the health of the sector as the whole world, not just the leisure industry, appeared to be looking into the abyss.

Two years on, and with the Coronavirus pandemic, hopefully, becoming a manageable part of our lives, we can start to reflect on what has happened, review the positive lessons we have all learnt, and think more confidently about how the leisure industry is placed to bounce back.

As professionals working in the leisure sector – with over 60 years’ experience between us – we have always been acutely aware of the tenacity and strength of our clients. However, in the face of ever-changing Government regulation, nervous customers and significant staffing issues, it would have been easy for operators to close up shop and ride out the storm on Government loans and furlough pay-outs.

On the contrary, many of our leisure leaders took the opportunity to develop and expand their leisure offerings, investing in the future and positioning themselves to be in the strongest possible position once the restrictions lifted.

Those decisions showed a confidence not only that “this too shall pass”, but gave a huge endorsement in the industry more generally. A major lesson learnt in the pandemic is that we are social beings and need to be in the company of others to maintain good mental health. Where better to seek out those interactions than in the bars and restaurants of our cities and towns? They are an integral part of our lives and of our future.

During the last two years, we have seen some of the most bold, creative and innovative measures taken by operators to keep their businesses trading and their staff in employment.

From restaurant operators developing “cook at home” and delivery services of the highest a la carte food, to bar operators creating exotic cocktail nights to enjoy with friends via Zoom; not to mention the reinvention of much of our street scene into magical outdoor spaces inviting us to linger even on the chilliest of North East winter nights.

These offerings became reminders that there was still pleasure to be taken in the most difficult of times. Many of the changes created through necessity have been so successful they are likely to remain.

Certainly, the continental cafe culture, that was a dream of New Labour at the turn of the century, is here to stay. Officers were always wary of the potential noise and disorder issues that outside drinking may have on a city centre. However, this imposed trial has clearly been successful, with pavement cafes being well managed; they have clearly added a vibrancy to many town and city centres.

The introduction of table service has also been welcomed by customers and operators alike. No more jostling at the bar and spilled drinks as you fight your way back to your table; this offering creates a more relaxed atmosphere with customers staying in venues longer.

Customers’ appreciation of their leisure time has also led to a change in what they want from a night out. The importance of maintaining a work/life balance is reflected in people’s desire to reconnect with friends and family and enjoy leisure at an experiential level. The sector has obliged by offering ‘Instagram-able’ afternoon teas, locally-produced artisan products and competitive socialising experiences aplenty, leading to a general uplift in quality.

Town centre bars and restaurants have seen a surge in popularity as people want to ‘stay local’ and support their local operators. That in turn has seen existing and new operators investing in town centres which will have long-term benefits and is set to continue.

Staycations have also increased interest in the region and tourism is likely to continue to increase as both the pandemic and Brexit see people keen to explore the UK.

As the world starts to unlock – hopefully we have been shut down for the last time – the true impact of the pandemic on the leisure sector will start to show. There will be a long-term impact and not all of it will be positive.

Some parts of the sector – theatres, cinemas and nightclubs – have been hit hard with the tightest regulations applying to them and that will take a long time to repair.

Staffing issues in the hospitality sector are at crisis level with some venues, particularly in the hotel sector, not operating at full capacity simply because they do not have sufficient staff to allow them to operate safely. Time will tell if the issue is purely down to Covid-19 or the fallout of Brexit, but changes need to be made to address the shortfall.

The “work from home” culture is here to stay to some extent, and that will inevitably impact on footfall in city centres. The partnerships between councils, responsible bodies, Business Improvement Districts and operators are more important than ever. Working together to create vibrant city centres with innovative offerings, which will give customers the desire and confidence to return, is key.

Article from our North East Leisure Supplement 2022, produced in conjunction with Sanderson Weatherall.

Sarah Smith, Head of Licensing and Gambling at Sintons – 0191 226 4897.

David Downing, Partner at Sanderson Weatherall – 0191 268 0151

Dumpling and Bun secures licence with support from Sintons

A popular Grainger Market eatery has secured a licence with support from Sintons, which will allow it to develop its offering even further.

Dumpling and Bun serves an array of authentic handmade Chinese dumplings and stuffed buns, and attracts a growing clientele to its central Newcastle site.

The venture had hoped to expand its offering to customers to include alcohol, with its owners believing Asian lager and Sake would complement its food menu.

Its application to Newcastle City Council attracted objections from the Licensing Authority, Police and Environmental Health Team, but through the support of the specialist licensing team at law firm Sintons, has since been approved.

The business is now able to diversify its offering even further through the addition of authentic Asian alcohol to its menu.

Dumpling and Bun was represented by Sarah Smith, head of licensing at Sintons and regularly acknowledged as one of the leading lawyers in the North of England.

“This is a well-known food business in the Grainger Market which has very much become part of the community there, and its dumplings and buns prove immensely popular with a wide clientele,” said Sarah.

“Securing a licence is not always a straightforward process, even when it may appear to be, and unfortunately Dumpling and Bun met with some initial resistance when they submitted their application.

“Through turning to us, we were able to support them in making a case as to why their licence would be a positive for the business, the Grainger Market and wider local area, adding further to the diversity and vibrancy it already enjoys and is known for.

“As a highly experienced licensing advisor, we can support on a wide range of contentious and non-contentious applications, with our unrivalled expertise ensuring we continue to be the go-to advisor for small businesses and multi-site leisure groups alike.”

Pablo Eggsgobao secures licence with support from Sintons

A city centre bao bun cafe has secured a licence with support from Sintons, after initially attracting objections to its application.

The fantastically named, Pablo Eggsgobao is a social media-favourite haunt in Newcastle, with a sister site in Whitley Bay, which enjoys particular popularity on Instagram for its range of baos.

The cafe, on Blandford Street, had wanted to secure a licence to develop its existing offering into a ‘community hub’ and function space.

However, concerns were expressed by a local college that its application could exacerbate alleged issues with anti-social behaviour in the area. Initially, their bid to secure an alcohol licence was rejected.

Facing a hearing before the Licensing Sub-Committee of Newcastle City Council, Pablo Eggsgobao turned to Sintons and its specialist licensing team – led by Sarah Smith, widely acknowledged as the go-to licensing lawyer in the North of England – who represented them leading to the licence being granted.

Sarah successfully argued that through the investment Pablo Eggsgobao was committing to the site, it would attract the potential for further regeneration and other businesses to move into the area.

She told the licensing committee: “That is the experience they have had in Whitley Bay.

“When they opened their shop on Station Road, there were some social issues. Since they opened, other businesses have opened too on that street and it is very much a vibrant hub.

“Those problems have been eradicated.”

The business can now serve alcohol from midday until 11pm.

Sarah added: “Pablo Eggsgobao is a very novel business which has built a very strong following on social media, particularly on Instagram, and attracts a growing and vibrant following to its cafes both in Whitley Bay and Newcastle.

“While the client’s application attracted objection we were able to intervene and highlight the very positive contribution such a dynamic business would make through being able to expand its offering even further.

“It is great news this has been given approval and we wish the team the very best of luck in developing the business even further.”

Scream for Pizza licence extended with support from Sintons

A popular pizza and ice cream café, offering New York style pizza slices and homemade ice cream, on Newcastle’s Quayside has had its bid to extend its licence approved thanks to support from specialists at Sintons.

Scream for Pizza applied to extend its licensed hours from 7.30pm to 10pm, as well as to allow takeaway customers to purchase alcohol from the premises.

However, the business – which expanded from its initial site in Sandyford to open on the Quayside – faced some opposition to its plans from local residents, who raised concerns about alcohol-fuelled behaviour.

But with support from the specialist licensing team at Sintons, Scream for Pizza was successful in its application, gaining approval from Newcastle City Council’s licensing sub committee.

Represented by Sarah Smith – Sintons’ head of licensing and widely regarded as one of the leading lawyers in the North – she highlighted the quality of the restaurant and its offering, and its commitment to building an esteemed brand which would add to the area.

I Scream for Pizza is now able to extend its hours and scope of alcohol sales, which the business says will be an important diversification as it continues to recover from COVID-19 lockdown.

“Scream for Pizza is a high-quality brand which has two successful Newcastle sites, and we are very pleased to have been able to support them in their ambitions,” said Sarah Smith.

“While there was some opposition to their application, we were able to allay the concerns raised through highlighting the very positive impact, and thoroughly responsible approach, this business takes. It is an asset to the Quayside area and a leisure brand that looks set to continue to grow.

“We wish them the very best of luck for the future.”

Sarah Kilby, Group Operations Manager at Scream for Pizza said “We are very pleased with the outcome of our licence change and thank Sarah for her support and assistance throughout the whole process. Sarah’s help has allowed us to push our vision for the site forward and dramatically increase evening trade.”

‘Excellent track record’ of licensing team praised by Chambers

The licensing team at Sintons has again been confirmed as a leader in its field by Chambers and Partners, which praises its “excellent track record”.

Sintons’ licensing specialists are longstanding trusted advisors to some of the leading leisure operators regionally and nationally, with new clients continually being added on the strength of its work and reputation.

Chambers 2022 highlights Sintons’ strength in a host of licensing matters, including obtaining licenses in cumulative impact zones and acting across sectors including sexual entertainment, retail, leisure, and food and drink.

Contested licensing issues are a “particular strength”, it states, and is adept in securing and advising on temporary licenses.

Sarah Smith, named by Legal 500 as being part of its Hall of Fame – which comprises lawyers who have excelled in their specialist field consistently for many years – is also hailed as a go-to advisor by Chambers.

She is said to be “routinely called upon” to handle significant and high-profile matters including premises license applications, as well as variations and revocations.

“I always found her to be very prompt and, most importantly, very aware of the challenges of our industry,” Chambers quotes.

The latest praise for Sintons’ licensing capability comes only weeks after the publication of Legal 500, which similarly found the firm to be a leading name in licensing in the North of England.

Christopher Welch, managing partner of Sintons, says: “Our licensing team is known nationally for its specialism, which makes it the advisor of choice for increasing numbers of major leisure operators.

“Sarah and her team are absolutely committed to supporting their clients in every way possible, through what can be very contentious public licensing matters, and deliver an absolutely first-rate legal and personal service throughout.

“We are very pleased that Chambers has again confirmed us as a leader in licensing, which is well-deserved and rightful recognition of our standing in the marketplace.”

Sintons again recognised for capability across the board by Chambers 2022

Sintons has again been hailed as one of the leading law firms in the North of England in newly-released rankings from Chambers and Partners UK.

The firm, consistently praised for its strength and capability throughout the business, again wins recognition for its legal expertise, deep experience and first-rate levels of client service.

Practice areas across the business win recognition as leaders in their field, with healthcare again being confirmed as one of the key advisors nationally for its work with growing numbers of NHS Trusts, organisations, professionals and healthcare businesses across the UK.

Chambers and Partners 2022, published today, also highlights 17 of Sintons’ lawyers as being stand-out names in their specialism, many of whom are recognised in the legal marketplace as being leading figures regionally and nationally.

The rankings come only weeks after Sintons won similar praise across the board from Legal 500, which also recognised the wide-ranging expertise, legal capability and service excellence the firm delivers to its clients.

Both Chambers and Legal 500 are independent publications which assess and rank law firms and lawyers throughout the UK, based on interviews, examples of work, and client and peer testimonials.

“For over 125 years, Sintons has built a well-deserved reputation as a first-rate legal advisor delivering outstanding levels of service to its clients, and those values have remained at the heart of the firm since our foundation in 1896,” says managing partner Christopher Welch.

“That these key features are consistently highlighted by independent legal publications like Chambers and Partners, and recently Legal 500 too, is a huge endorsement of what we do here at Sintons. Businesses, families and individuals put their trust in us to deliver an outstanding legal and personal service and that is what we deliver.

“Chambers again confirms our strength across the whole Sintons business, with capability and talent running throughout the firm, and a shared commitment by everyone here to continue to build Sintons so it can be the best it can be. We are all delighted to again have our efforts recognised in this way.”

Sintons once again wins praise from Legal 500 2022

Law firm Sintons has again maintained its reputation as one of the leading law firms in the North of England in newly-released rankings from Legal 500, winning plaudits for its strength and expertise across the firm.

Legal 500 2022, released today, renews its praise of Sintons and confirms them as being a go-to legal provider in the region in many key practice areas.

The independent publication – which ranks law firms and lawyers across the North, compiled as a result of examples of work, interviews and client and peer testimonials – names eight of Sintons’ lawyers as leading individuals, three as next generation partners and a further six as rising stars. One of its lawyers also secures the highly coveted accolade of being named in the Legal 500 Hall of Fame, in recognition of consistent achievement throughout their career.

The latest Legal 500 rankings add further to the long-standing reputation of Sintons – winner of five awards at the most recent Northern Law Awards, including overall Law Firm of the Year – as a leading player in the North of England, with national reach and capability in many of its departments.

The leading individuals at Sintons, as identified by Legal 500, are:

The next generation partners, as identified by Legal 500, are:

The lawyer named as member of the Legal 500 Hall of Fame is:

The rising stars at the firm are:

Christopher Welch, managing partner of Sintons, said: “We are very proud of the reputation we have built during our 125 year history as being a law firm which consistently offers legal excellence and an outstanding service to our clients, and for these two factors to again be recognised by Legal 500 as being a staple of Sintons’ offering is very pleasing.

We are delighted to maintain our position as one of the leading law firms in the North of England, with strength, capability and experience running throughout our practice areas.”

Hospitality staff to keep all tips under new government plans

The government has announced that it will introduce legislation to ensure that tips left for hospitality staff are paid to them in full (except for deductions required under tax law).

The new legislation is aimed to assist around two million people working in the industry to top up their income, many of whom are earning the National Minimum Wage or National Living Wage.

At present, cash tips are legally the property of workers who receive them. However, the more prevalent card tips, which make up 80% of all tipping in the UK due to the move towards a cashless society (especially since the covid-19 pandemic) do not automatically have to be given to the staff. Whilst many businesses will pass on these sums, the decision to do so is currently at the discretion of the business and the business could retain these funds, if it sees the need to do so.

Labour Markets Minister, Paul Scully, stated that the new measures will, “ensure tips will go to those who worked for it” as, “unfortunately, some companies choose to withhold cash from hardworking staff who have been tipped by customers as a reward for good service.”

Of the plans to make this illegal, he stated that it will provide, “a boost to workers, while reassuring customers their money is going to those who deserve it.”

The legislation will:

  • require all employers to pass tips onto workers without any deductions (such as administration charges) except for those deductions required by tax law;
  • result in a Statutory Code of Practice setting out how tips should be distributed to ensure fairness and transparency;
  • necessitate a written policy on tips and the retention of records of how tips have been dealt with;
  • allow tips to be provided by using a tronc but require that they are distributed no later than one month in arrears; and
  • introduce rights for workers to request information in relation to an employer’s tipping record, allowing them to bring forward a credible claim to an Employment Tribunal.

Under this new legislation, an employer faces action at an Employment Tribunal if they break the rules.

These measures are expected to be enforced within the next year and will form part of a package of measures which will provide greater protections for workers’ rights.

If you have any queries about the introduction of these new measures, please contact our employment team.

‘We’re proud to have helped make Sintons the firm it is’

As Sintons celebrates its 125th anniversary, some of its team share their thoughts and experiences of being part of the firm and playing their role in its growth. From those who have been at Sintons for over 30 years to those who have joined more recently, here they discuss what makes the firm stand out in the competitive legal marketplace, while also being a great place to work.

Amanda Maskery, partner and head of NHS healthcare

“I have been at Sintons now for nearly 20 years and during that time I have progressed from trainee to partner level and more recently to head of our fast-growing NHS Healthcare team. Many of my clients have been with Sintons for years and grown with me and I think a large part of that is because we have built such strong and trusting relationships with them.

The firm has grown significantly since I first started working here – it has doubled in size.  However, the same culture, values and traditions are still imbedded which means whilst the firm changed in size, it still embraces the supportive nurturing culture you only find at Sintons which cascades from the top down.

As I began life as a trainee at Sintons, it’s fantastic to be able to support others in progressing and achieving their goals. We have a strong team and great dynamic and that is evident to our young lawyers who bring with them a refreshing approach to the Sintons culture.”

Leah Greenwell, solicitor apprentice

“Starting my career, it was important to find a firm with local roots and a reputation for providing high quality training. The first-class levels of service Sintons provide is testament to the standard of training they deliver, and there was no question which firm I wanted my career to start in.

Sintons have always focused on ensuring that my development is put first and have laid the foundations for a successful career as a solicitor. Being a full service firm has given me the opportunity to experience all areas of law and has exposed me to a variety of high value and complex work. I look forward to what the future holds for me at Sintons.

Although the marketplace is competitive, Sintons longstanding history and their presence, both locally and nationally, will always place them at the forefront.”

Anne Smith, secretary

“I started at Sintons in 1986 and this year in November will have been here for 35 years.

I still remember my first day like it was yesterday. Everyone was so friendly and welcoming, and it is still like that today – almost like a second family to me.

“I have mainly worked in private client and worked for lots of fee earners and partners. In 2000 I started working for Steve Freeman who then went on to become a Partner and Head of the Private Client Department. I have now worked for him for 21 years this year and I can honestly say it has been a pleasure and an honour to work for such a lovely man – we have a great working relationship. I also work with the rest of the Family Department and work for such lovely fee earners.

I am also very proud to say that my daughter Emma also works for Sintons in the Conveyancing Department and she also loves her job and the team she works with.

I have seen many changes over the years but one thing remains constant – Sintons is a great place to work. I have made lifelong friends here and they will remain so.”

Emelie Vardon, solicitor

“Sintons’ heritage was very important to me when choosing to join Sintons. I came here as a trainee solicitor in 2017 and making the right choice for my future career was crucial. Knowing Sintons’ reputation and history, I couldn’t have made a better decision.

This is such a great place to work with a warm and welcoming environment. Following the completion of my training contract in 2019, I joined our developing Wills, Trusts and Estate Disputes team. Under Emma Saunders’ excellent leadership and support, my first year as a qualified solicitor has been excellent groundwork for my future career in this specialist area of law.

As a full-service law firm, I consider that Sintons is well-placed in the competitive market.”

Mark Dobbin, partner and head of real estate

“I joined Sintons as a trainee in September 1997. At the time the firm consisted of about 80-90 people. We were operating from an office in Portland Terrace in Jesmond, it was like a rabbit warren for a new starter as it was multiple old terraced houses converted and joined on different floors.

The main changes have been the massive growth in size and expertise, plus multiple office moves until finally landing at the Cube. When I qualified in 1999 myself and the partner at the time (Andrew Walker) were the Sintons commercial property department. Since then we have grown significantly.

Sintons has always been and remains a great place to work, we have an excellent team in Real Estate and will continue to succeed because of the efforts of our staff.”

Pippa Aitken, senior associate

“Sintons was much smaller when I joined in 1998. It was a friendly, family firm renowned for its reputation in private client and personal injury work. There was no dedicated corporate and commercial department.

“I was the only trainee and was sent on all sorts of weird and wonderful jobs – witnessing wills, attending infant settlements and the odd trip to the bank for the accounts department!

Sintons has become a lot more sophisticated in its working procedures and there is a much faster pace of life with emails being the most popular form of communication. I have seen some great lawyers leave and some great lawyers arrive but everyone soon seems to inherit the ‘old’ Sintons sense of fun, respect and teamwork.

Sintons is in a great place going forward. Virtual working has opened up some great opportunities to spread our wings and engage with clients even better than before.”

Sarah Smith, partner and head of licensing

“The firm has almost doubled in size since I started in  2005. The range of services offered by the firm has expanded quite significantly since then too, making the firm much more attractive to commercial clients.

When I first came to Sintons, I headed up the department with Lucy Winskell (now chair of NELEP and Pro Vice-Chancellor of Northumbria University). Since her departure I have headed it up myself. In spite of that, the department has grown in its client base and the amount of work we deal with on an annual basis.

With the growth in size and services we continue to see, I think Sintons are very well placed in the market to take advantage of opportunities going forward.”

Astrid Stevenson, secretary

“I joined Sintons on 21 October, 1997, and will have been here for 25 years this year.

I think when I started there were only about 80 people working at Sintons. We were based in Portland Terrace then moved to Osborne Terrace. We didn’t have open plan working like we have now, we had little rooms with approximately 3 secretaries in each room. I shared a room with Anne Smith from the first day I arrived and we have been firm friends ever since. Fee earners all had their own office. Basically, it was like a rabbit warren.

The staffing levels were very much smaller then, as I say about 80 staff then and now we have more than double that number. The computer system (Word Perfect 5.1) and equipment were top of the range for the time, and I think that has carried on until this day, our IT department have the latest of everything and are basically top notch.

Since I started 25 years ago, the firm has changed and has always moved forward with the times.  When I started there were no female partners. Hilary Parker and Karen Simms became the first, which was a very welcome breakthrough for Sintons.

We were like one big happy family with lots of social events, which thankfully still happen to this day, keeping the ethos of Sintons going.

I think if I didn’t enjoy working here I wouldn’t be celebrating my 25th years this year at Sintons. I’ve worked for the head of dispute resolution Angus Ashman for 24 of those years, and I think we work well together because we work as a team.

This is a very nice place to work, the people are all friendly and If anyone needs help with anything there is always someone there to help. I always think we are only as good as the tools we work with and I must say Sintons do provide all the best equipment and people and it makes the job so much easier if you have things like that in place.”

Sintons’ development – reflections from the Chairman

Sintons’ chairman, Alan Dawson, is one of the firm’s longest-serving people, having joined in 1980. Here, he shares his thoughts on some of the biggest changes and advances he has seen in the past 41 years.


When I joined in 1980, we used manual typewriters, although thankfully electric typewriters had recently become available. There were no screens at that time, but over the years we added one-line screens to the typewriters, then that went up to three or four lines. It was the early 1990s before we introduced computers.

There were no colour photocopiers so all of the plans we copied were in black and white. We would have to go over them with coloured pens to make them the same as the original.

The introduction of fax in the 80s was a game changer, everything before then was done by Telex or telegram if we needed ‘instant’ communication. The only problem was that due to the paper fax machines used at that time, the print would fade – we’d go back to the file six months later and the sheet would be completely blank! We had to remember to photocopy the fax when they came in for use in our records.

With property completions, all bank-to-bank transfers involved getting an actual cheque from the bank, and then going to the office of the other solicitor in the transaction to inspect the deeds and then complete the deal. Fridays, the traditional completion day, were often spent going between solicitors’ offices in Newcastle.

When mobile phones were introduced, we had one mobile for the firm to use, we didn’t have one each. It was one of the brick-like phones with a huge battery, but it was a huge novelty.

Thankfully things have moved on hugely, and Sintons now has a first-rate technology and IT infrastructure, which enables us to offer a very efficient service to our clients while keeping their data fully secure.

Size of the firm

Back in 1980, we had about 36 people – now we have around 170.

We really started to grow from the mid to late 90s, and in 1998 we moved our offices from Portland Terrace in Jesmond to bigger premises in Osborne Terrace, which comprised three and a half houses next to each other with an overspill office further down the road. We imagined that would give us room to grow for the next 15 years – but within the next two or three years, it was already too small.

We came to The Cube in 2004 and at first didn’t use the top floor of our four-floor building, although within the next couple of years we had expanded into there.

Over the years, we have added many outstanding lawyers to our team, both through recruitment from other firms as well as training young people-in house. Our commitment to supporting aspiring lawyers through their training contract has been unfaltering – I joined as an articled clerk (or trainee, as it’s now known) and have progressed through the ranks.

As the firm has grown then so too has our back-office and support functions developed. We didn’t have the infrastructure we have now, so no HR, IT or marketing department.

Our accounts system was all manual, the cashier had to write everything by hand. There was one card per client, so if you had to borrow it, then they couldn’t make any more entries for that client until you returned it.

Our HR function was our office manager, who kept a record of who was off and the reasons for their absence – reading it now, some of the reasons are quite amusing!

Law firms weren’t allowed to advertise at all until the late 1980s, so the only kind of marketing we could do was through the Yellow Pages. Now, we operate at the very forefront of the sector, adopting digital way before many of our competitors, and that early investment is helping us to stay ahead in the marketplace.

Practice areas

In the 1980s when I joined, Sintons had a very significant insurance litigation practice which acted for four or five of the major national insurers. The revenue from that area of the business probably accounted for two thirds of our entire income. However, in the early 1990s, we recognised that reliance on a few large clients or a particular work stream was not the best way to develop the firm and could make us vulnerable. We therefore made concerted efforts to radically change our business model and to further grow the other practice areas we had operated in for many years, including private client, corporate and commercial and real estate, and they proved to be areas of strong development for us. They continue to be key areas of the business for us and will be central to our ongoing progress as a firm.

We also moved into claimant personal injury work, which really took off in the late 90s and early 2000s. More recently, we have developed our national reputation as specialists in catastrophic and serious personal injury work with a thriving specialist neurotrauma department which handles life-changing brain and spinal cord injury work.

National reach

In the early days, we were more of a regional firm with clients mainly across the North East, and some in the wider North. Occasionally, clients moved to elsewhere in England which helped us to reach out nationally on a small scale, but we didn’t have much of a national reach.

However, as we grew as a firm, we started to work on a more national basis and now on an international basis as well. The improvement of technology was also an important factor in enabling us to communicate with people wherever they were by phone or fax, but more recently by mobile phone, email or even video calling which has proved so important during the pandemic.

Through our efforts to grow individual areas of the business – which in many instances have demonstrated substantial growth over the course of a number of years, underpinned by the hard work of our people – we have been able to add outstanding new lawyers to the team, whether they have moved to Sintons from elsewhere or have been trained in-house.

Now, we have a number of areas of the business which are regarded in the highest terms nationally, including our healthcare team, which has grown its presence over the past 10 to 15 years to become a national leader in its field.

We continue to receive growing numbers of instructions from across the UK and wider afield in almost all areas of the business, as our capability and reputation as a firm builds further still.

Building on our heritage to create a strong future

1896 marked a year of historic new beginnings and breakthroughs.

The year that saw the first modern Olympic Games held in Athens;

The introduction of the X-ray;

The development of the first Ford vehicle, the Quadricycle.

And in such a landmark year as 1896, with events taking place which went on to change history, it is fitting that this was the year when Sintons was founded and the foundations laid for the firm that it would become.

Having been founded as Sutton Cheshire & Thompson on February 8, 1896, to serve the people of Newcastle, the firm then merged with John H. Sintons & Co in 1971 – later becoming Sintons – and has grown into one of the leading law firms in the North of England, acting for ever-increasing numbers of business and private clients both regionally and across the UK.

Over the past 125 years, Sintons has developed a reputation for the quality of its advice, and crucially, the deep and trusting relationships it builds with its clients borne out of the outstanding service it delivers to them.

There are so many momentous events and developments which have taken place over such a long period of time and the world has changed, and continues to change, beyond recognition.

However, throughout that period Sintons has been working alongside individuals, families, businesses and organisations for 125 years, adapting and changing to meet new challenges and will continue to do so for the years to come.

As a law firm for changing times, Sintons continues to evolve, as it has done since 1896, to ensure it stays at the forefront of the legal market and in the best possible position to deliver excellence to its clients.

“Over the past 125 years, we have continually shown we are innovators, we are leaders. We have never been afraid to take bold decisions,” says Christopher Welch, managing partner of Sintons.

“A great example of this is when we invested in our head office, The Cube, in 2004. We were moving to an area of the city which was largely undeveloped and were, largely, surrounded by the old Scottish and Newcastle plant. Looking around us now, this is a thriving, fast-growing and sought-after area, which is the site of huge investment from both business and academia. We had the foresight to buy into these brave future plans and the ambition to want to become part of it.

“In these changing times, we will continue to evolve and develop, as we have done throughout our history, to ensure that at all times we are delivering the very best service to all our clients while also building and investing in the firm from within.

“We have stood the test of time for 125 years and are committed to ensuring Sintons maintains the reputation and presence that has been built so carefully into the future.”

For Christopher, who joined Sintons in 2003, the main differentiator between Sintons and its competitors is its unfaltering commitment to clients.

While continuing to attract new clients nationally, the firm is rightly proud of its longstanding client base, which includes many who have been with Sintons through multiple generations of their family or business ownership.

“The firm’s absolute priority from day one has been our clients and ensuring they receive the highest standards of legal and personal service. Our reputation is built on those foundations, which were laid by our previous generations of Sintons’ lawyers, and is one we are proud to continue to develop further,” says Christopher.

“At Sintons, we care about what we do, how we do it and we never forget that the clients we are working with are depending on us for, often, some of the most momentous decisions of their lives. As a firm, we recognise both the privilege and the responsibility that goes with this, it is fundamental to how we work and to our values as a business.

“Our clients are the front, back and centre of everything we do. We’ve been there for them whenever they’ve needed us for 125 years and that will continue to be the case as we move forward.”

And building further on its reputation for leading the way in the legal marketplace, Sintons continues to innovate to stand out from the crowd.

Having carried out a full rebrand in early 2020, to give the firm a fresh yet timeless identity, Sintons continues to invest in its future.

“Our rebrand was a significant step for the firm,” says Christopher. “Our branding represents the firm that we are; bold, innovative and providing clear and confident advice to our clients – a firm that stands out from the crowd.

“The use of technology to better serve our clients has always been an essential part of our growth strategy. Our founding partners would be aghast at the thought that we were able to have virtually all our colleagues working remotely – with some as far away as the Cayman Islands and Texas – without any impact on client service.

“By investing heavily in our website and online presence, we have created a resource which is available to clients wherever they are in the UK or indeed the world, giving them immediate access to information and support in ways which weren’t available before.

“The legal sector isn’t always the first to embrace change, but we are rightfully proud of the reputation we have built for standing out in that respect. For 125 years, we have taken bold moves, we have never shied away from making investment to equip the business for the long-term, and we have shown foresight and innovation to make the firm what it is today.

“This is a landmark anniversary for us, and in uncertain times, the investment we have made for many years in our infrastructure, development of our people and strategic recruitment means we remain confident in our future and the service we can continue to provide to our clients and to the regional community of which we are a fundamental part.

“These truly are changing times – but with 125 years behind us then we must be doing something right!  We know that our business will continue to evolve, with further investments in technology and infrastructure changing how and where we work. However, as we move forward, what is clear is that Sintons will always be right there, by the side of our clients, as we have been since 1896.”

Law firm Sintons is marking its 125th anniversary

Since its foundation in 1896, Sintons has grown to become one of the leading law firms in the North of England with a client base which extends across the whole UK.

It has become known as a key advisor to businesses and individuals acting on major, complex matters, regionally, nationally and internationally.

In many of its practice areas, including business, healthcare, private client and neurotrauma, Sintons is regarded as one of the UK’s leading specialist advisors.

Sintons has built a well-deserved reputation for delivering expert legal advice and outstanding service to every client, which is at the heart of the trusting and long-lasting relationships it has built during the past 125 years.

Testament to the quality of service provided is the fact that many of the firm’s clients have been with Sintons for decades, with the firm routinely being trusted to advise multiple generations of families and business owners.

Now, in its 125th year, and despite the ongoing challenges being presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, Sintons remains confident in its future as the firm continues to develop and grow.

The firm can trace its roots back to the formation of Sutton Cheshire & Thompson on February 8, 1896, which merged with John H. Sinton & Co in 1971 to become Sinton & Co, and later Sintons.

The expansion of the amalgamated firm has seen it move offices a number of times in order to house its growing number of employees, moving from Portland Terrace in Jesmond to bigger premises in Osborne Terrace which were soon outgrown, resulting in the relocation in 2004 to its current purpose-built home, The Cube, opposite St James’ Park in Newcastle. A second site was added with the opening of a consulting office in York two years ago to help the firm service its increasing demand for work from around Yorkshire.

The move in 2004 acted as a springboard in the development of Sintons, with many people not having realised how big the firm had grown and heralded a period of strong growth across the firm as a whole, with legal talent continually added to build its expertise and capability further still.

This has been backed by continued investment in its IT infrastructure, digital offering and people, to ensure Sintons is well positioned for the future.

“We are very proud of the reputation we have built over the past 125 years, which has seen us become known on a national scale as a law firm of the highest capability which is absolutely dedicated to its clients,” says Christopher Welch, managing partner of Sintons.

“We have never been afraid to be leaders and to take bold decisions, which have frequently put us at the very forefront of the legal sector. We were, for example, building our online presence and digital business development platforms way ahead of our competitors and long before it was something that was embraced widely within the legal sector.

“Going forward, we are in a strong position, having built on the heritage and legacy of Sintons over the past 125 years to create a law firm with a national reach, regarded in the highest terms for the quality of both our legal and personal client service.

“This is a very significant milestone for us as a business, and while we reach it during some of the most challenging economic conditions in the country’s history, we remain confident in the future of Sintons.”

Meet our Team – Sarah Smith

Sarah Smith

What is your role at Sintons and how long have you been with the firm? 

I am a partner and head of the licensing and gambling team, and have been with Sintons for 15 years.

Tell us about your career to date…

I trained at Mincoffs Solicitors and worked there for 13 years, initially as a personal injury solicitor before becoming a partner and head of their licensing department.

Can you tell us about your department and the work it does

We deal with all licensing matters relating to alcohol, entertainment and late night refreshment, sex establishments, gaming operations (such as adult gaming centres, betting, lotteries etc) and we also advise on taxi licensing.

We are involved in obtaining licences, maintaining and varying licences and defending licences from enforcement action. If you want or have a licence, we are the people you want to have on your team.

What have been your personal career highlights to date?

There have been lots of very interesting and high-profile matters that I have worked on. More recent highlights include obtaining the premises licence for STACK Newcastle after a six-day appeal hearing and securing the licences for Hard Rock Café, Alnwick Castle and Alnwick Gardens. In my personal injury years I was involved in the first case in which the MOD paid out compensation in excess of £1m. And of course the day, many years ago, that I met Ant and Dec to advise them on their proposed foray into the licensing trade will always be remembered!

Sintons enjoys a first-rate reputation regionally and nationally for its work. What is it like to work here?

Sintons is a great place to work. We work hard but we have fun. There are always lots of community and charity-based initiatives which helps to maintain a real sense of Sintons as a team, and we invest a lot in the younger staff as they are the future of the firm.

And finally, tell us about your interests outside work…

As with many working mums, my interests are usually limited to my kids’ interests. In the winter it’s watching my daughter play rugby and in summer watching my son play cricket or golf. I have been known on occasion to swing a tennis racquet or golf club but if I get time to myself it’s usually a chance to walk the dog, catch up with friends or expand my knowledge of gin (for research purposes only, of course).

Licensing again confirmed as a leading advisor in the North

The “excellent track record” of Sintons’ specialist licensing team has won praise from Chambers and Partners UK Guide 2021, with its strong capability and levels of client service both hailed as being crucial to its offering.

The team, led by renowned licensing specialist Sarah Smith, is known for its expertise in all licensing matters, both contentious and non-contentious – “contested licenses are a particular strength,” notes Chambers – and represents clients from around the country.

It is “adept” at obtaining licences in cumulative impact zones, as well as in advising clients from sectors including sexual entertainment, retail, leisure and food and drink.

The licensing team was praised for its “very high” standards, with Chambers adding “they are easy to work with and have always provided high-quality results”. It recently won similar praise from the Legal 500 Guide 2021, which confirmed its reputation as one of the leading licensing specialists in the North.

Sarah Smith – recently named as part of the Legal 500 Hall of Fame in recognition of her career achievements – wins particular praise, and is highlighted for her capability in handling premises license applications, as well as licence variations and revocations, alongside taxi licensing work.

“Sarah is a pleasure to work with. She is easy to contact, very intelligent and knowledgeable in the field of licensing,” cites Chambers.

“She goes above and beyond … she is very meticulous and detailed, but also explains things in layman’s terms.”

Christopher Welch, managing partner, said: “We are regarded in the highest terms nationally for our work in licensing and are regularly involved in major high-profile new leisure developments in the North East and far beyond.

“Sarah has built a team which has become the trusted go-to advisor of leisure operators across the UK, and its commitment to client service, alongside its legal excellence, makes it a stand-out advisor in this area of work.

“To receive such strong praise from Chambers 2021, which echoes the findings of Legal 500 about our standards of legal and client excellence, is very pleasing indeed, and is yet more independent endorsement of the first-rate work of Sarah and her team.”

Licensing team again hailed as go-to advisor by Legal 500

The specialist licensing team at Sintons has again been confirmed as one of the leading advisors in the North of England, with its practice head securing highly-coveted recognition for her consistent achievement.

Legal 500 2021 praises the team for its “very efficient” approach and “enviable” range of clients, with its expertise securing work for nationally-known businesses throughout the leisure and taxi trade.

The team is also highlighted for its capability in working collaboratively with licensing authorities and other responsible bodies. As well as handling appeals and defending review of licences, the firm also wins praise for its capability in drafting responses to Government and Local Authority Consultation documents on behalf of trade associations.

Sarah Smith, head of licensing and a long-standing leading individual in Legal 500 rankings, wins a place in the Legal 500 Hall of Fame in recognition of her outstanding work throughout her career.

Sintons’ licensing specialists are known as being a go-to for contentious and non-contentious licensing matters, with its unrivalled knowledge and track record securing its reputation as a leader in the North.

Christopher Welch, managing partner of Sintons, said: “We have a well-deserved reputation as the licensing lawyers any leisure business would want in their corner, and Legal 500 yet again confirms this. Our specialism and deep knowledge of the licensing laws and regulations means we can support clients with a full spectrum of matters, consistently delivering on Sintons’ core values of legal excellence and outstanding client service.

“Our congratulations also go to Sarah for her inclusion in the Legal 500 Hall of Fame – worthy recognition of her reputation and position as the trusted advisor to leisure businesses across the North East and wider UK.”

STACK to stay in Newcastle until 2024

The social hub and container venue, STACK, in central Newcastle will be staying in the city until 2024, it has been confirmed.

The popular food, drink and live music venue has had its original licence extended for a further three years, beyond the end of its current licence next April, following approval from Newcastle City Council.

Danieli Holdings, owner of STACK, was supported by specialist licensing advisors at Sintons in its successful premises licence application.

Since opening in July 2018, STACK has seen more than 2 million people visit its containers, on the site of the old Odeon cinema in Pilgrim Street, and has recently added a second STACK venue  to its portfolio through its expansion into Seaburn, in Sunderland.

Danieli have pledged to continue to make new introductions to its STACK site in Newcastle, to keep its offer fresh and exciting for visitors, with ‘competitive socialising’ activities like darts and shuffleboard being considered for the near future.

Sarah Smith, head of licensing at Sintons, is the long-standing advisor to Danieli Holdings, and advised them on their latest application with Charles Holland of Trinity Chambers as their advocate at the hearing before the Council’s Licensing Sub-committee. The Committee granted the licence following a virtual hearing.

“STACK has become a firm favourite in Newcastle’s leisure scene and we are delighted it will be a fixture of the city centre until 2024 at least. It has become known for its wide variety of offering, which makes it a venue people can visit from day into night, and for the platform it provides for independent traders. It regenerated a disused area of the city and introduced something new and modern, which has helped to bring new footfall into the Pilgrim Street area,” she said.

“Danieli have worked very closely with the Council to ensure its ongoing positive impact on the city, and we are pleased this will be allowed to continue through securing the new premises licence.”

Ask the Experts weekly Q&A from Sintons’ Employment Team – episode 4

Ask the Experts weekly Q&A from Sintons’ Employment Team – episode 4 – with Keith Land and Ailsa Hobson.

These sessions have come about due to the employment team here at Sintons having been inundated with COVID-19 and furlough questions following the introduction of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and the ever changing government guidance.

The team has also been giving some thought as to what work may look like following the relaxation of the current restrictions.

So, In order to give you an opportunity to share in some of that wisdom, the team have opened themselves up to these Q&A sessions which are going to last until the end of May. During these short, bite sized sessions, members of the employment team will answer three questions, although it will actually be four today, (either COVID-19 related or not) that you haven’t either quite got to the bottom of or that your employees persistently ask you.

Please click on the image below to watch the session.

Sintons’ Employment Seminar – Managing the End of Furlough

Sintons’ Employment team, in partnership with Reed HR, have recorded the following complimentary online employment law seminar.

This seminar focuses on how to manage the end of furlough & potential restructuring.

Please click on the play button in the bottom left corner of the below image to start viewing.

To follow the full size slides the team are using throughout the presentation, please click here prior to commencing watching.


COVID-19 Q&A | Sintons | Licensing

During these unprecedented times, where the situation is changing on a daily basis, we are aware that individuals and business owners will have many questions and uncertainties about how these developments impact on them.

Here, through a series of Q&A with expert lawyers from across our firm, Sintons hopes to be able to answer some of those pressing questions, and provide some certainty and clarity for people who are unsure how to proceed.

We will bring you a question and answer per day for the next few weeks.

Q – I own a bar but have been forced to close. Is there any point in even thinking about any licensing matters for the summer months or shall I just look at that nearer to the time?

A – It’s difficult to be sure when bars, restaurants and cafes will be able to open again at the current time. However, it is sensible to consider any licensing matters that you need to address now rather than leave this until reopening occurs.

Licensing applications are usually subject to several weeks of consultation and, if your proposed changes include the need to submit a planning application, the application process can take several months.

Some matters you might want to consider now are:

  • Extended hours for the coming Bank Holiday weekends. These can be obtained by submitting a Temporary Event Notice and require 10 working days’ notice being given to the Licensing Authority. Whilst we may not be out of lockdown for the May Day Bank Holiday it is certainly possible that the late May Bank Holiday will be a busy time for licensed venues and, hopefully, by August life will be more normal
  • Pavement cafes. The placing of tables and chairs on the highway requires permission from the Local Authority. What form that takes can vary from council to council, but it usually involves obtaining planning permission for change of use of the highway and a consent from the highways authority. That process can take up to three months to complete following submission so it is definitely worth planning ahead if you want to offer an outside drinking area when your bar reopens.

* For advice on this or any other licensing matters, please contact Sarah Smith, head of licensing at Sintons, on or 0191 226 4897.

Closure of restaurants, cafes, pubs & other leisure venues: the Regulations

Please read the latest update from Charles Holland – Barrister on The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Business Closure) (England) Regulations 2020.

The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Business Closure) (England) Regulations 2020 (SI 2020/327) (“the Regulations”) were made at 2pm today, 21 March 2020, under the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984 and come into force immediately. In a sign of the exceptionality of the situation, the Regulations have yet to be laid before Parliament (as permitted by s.45R of the Act): that will happen on Monday.

The Regulations are the means by which the Government gives effect (in England – see below for Wales) to the Prime Minister’s statement in a press conference yesterday 20 March 2020 that “We are collectively telling cafes, pubs, bars and restaurants to close tonight as soon as they reasonably can, and not to open tomorrow.”


The Regulations apply from the day they come into force until a termination direction is given under regulation 2(7)-(8). A termination direction may only relate to some categories of the businesses affected.

The Regulations expire completely at the end of 6 months after they come into force, although this expiry by the effluxion of time does not affect the validity of anything done before then.

Click here for the full article.

If Sintons can assist you in any way at this difficult time, please contact Sarah Smith, Partner and Head of the Licensing and Gambling team. 

Successful pop-up restaurant puts down permanent roots

The creator of one of Newcastle’s most popular pop-up venues is now opening his own restaurant inspired by the success of his initial venture.

Barrio Comida opened on the city’s Quayside in December 2016 and became a staple of the food scene with its Mexican menu, informal atmosphere and accessible prices.

Now, chef Shaun Hurrell – who worked for Michelin-starred chefs Marcus Wareing and Fergus Henderson in London – is taking the brand to Durham, making significant investment in a site on Church Street to create a two-floor social venue, with its renowned tacos a staple of its food offering. The opening of Barrio Comida will create around 25 jobs.

The restaurant, which will comprise a ground floor taquiera, sizeable outdoor patio area and a basement with a bar and table to seat 16 to 18 people, is set to open next month

Shaun, who hosted successful monthly pop-ups in Durham several years ago while working in the city’s Flat White, said: “We are taking inspiration from our previous site and are keeping all the best things we did in Newcastle, but are now taking it up a level. We did the best we could with our surroundings on the Quayside, but now we have the premises to achieve what we want. We looked at sites for a long while and this place in Durham is great, we found it when it was a hole in the ground and it’s going to look really beautiful.

“We are investing significantly to create something gastronomic which offers the best experience and atmosphere. Our food will be our version of traditional Mexican and we are sourcing corn and machines to make tortillas from Mexico, but we are keeping the same accessible price point we have always had. We are looking at £10 to £15 a head for food which means we can become a regular haunt and not somewhere which is out of the price bracket of many. I have worked in high-end restaurants where none of my friends could ever afford to come in and eat, so it has long been my belief that you can create a great product at a good price.”

Shaun has been supported in securing his licence by law firm Sintons, and was represented by head of licensing Sarah Smith.

Sarah said: “Barrio Comida built an excellent reputation during its time on Newcastle Quayside with its food and laid-back style won it a strong and loyal following. It will come as great news that the brand is now back in a new, permanent site in Durham. Shaun is investing significant amounts of time, effort and funds to create something truly special that builds on the great success of his previous venture, and I have no doubt that his opening will be one of the most eagerly-awaited of the year.”

Licensing team hailed for “excellent” track record and reputation

The licensing team at Sintons has again been confirmed as one of the leading advisors in its field regionally and nationally in newly-released rankings from Chambers 2020.

The team, regularly cited as the go-to licensing name in the North East, wins particular praise for its ability to advise clients on contested licensing issues, and for its track record in advising in areas including sexual entertainment, retail and food and drink.

Chambers cites its “excellent reputation in the market. Their strength is the quality of the legal teams and their quick response times”.

Sarah Smith, head of licensing, retails her place as a leading advisor in Chambers, and is praised for the depth of her knowledge, wide and strong client base, and particularly her “ability to explain complex issues in layman’s terms”.

The praise for Sintons’ licensing team from Chambers comes only shortly after similar findings from Legal 500 2019, which again named Sintons as a top-tier advisor and Sarah Smith as one of the leading lawyers in the North of England.

Mark Quigley, managing partner of Sintons, said: “Our licensing team has a longstanding reputation as being one of the leaders in its field of the North of England, and we are very pleased to again secure independent confirmation of this. Chambers 2020 rightly acknowledges our unrivalled specialism in this area of work and the true expertise of Sarah Smith and her team.

Leisure is a key area of the Sintons business and one which continues to grow and make even further gains, and we are delighted with this continuing progress.”

Licensing team maintains top-tier ranking in Legal 500 2019

The specialist licensing team at Sintons is again hailed as a leader in its field in the North of England by Legal 500 for its capability and wide-ranging expertise.

The department maintains its long-held top-tier ranking in Legal 500 2019, in recognition of its work with key clients in the leisure sector regionally and nationally.

The team is praised for its breadth of expertise, from general administration and new applications to defending reviews of licences and handling applications in cumulative impact policy areas, and for its strong client base, which includes many of the leading leisure operators in the North of England. Legal 500 also hails its specialism in taxi licensing law.

Sarah Smith, head of licensing at Sintons, is again named as a leading individual for her work on behalf of clients, and is hailed for her ability to work in collaboration with licensing authorities and responsible bodies.

Consultant Barry Speker also wins praise in this area, with Legal 500 naming him as “notable” for his work in advising restaurants and takeaways on licensing and property matters. He is a longstanding trusted advisor to the Chinese community in Newcastle and the wider North.

Mark Quigley, managing partner of Sintons, said: “Our licensing team has a long-standing reputation as being one of the leaders in its field of the North of England, and Legal 500 2019 rightly gives further recognition of this status. Our work in this very specialist area is unrivalled and Sarah Smith is a true expert in this field, leading a team which acts for major nationally-known leisure names on a wide range of matters and delivering excellence in legal and client service.

“Leisure is another area of the Sintons business which continues to grow and make even further gains, and we are delighted with this continuing progress.”

Leading events venue builds on success with expansion

One of Newcastle’s most historic buildings, which has more recently become one of the city’s leading events destinations, is planning to expand its offering further on the back of significant demand.

The Secret Tower, which opened in late 2016, has seen huge levels of success and has established itself among the region’s premium events destinations, with demand for weddings and corporate events often outweighing capacity.

The Grade I listed building, which dates back to the 1200s, has received six-figure investment from owner Kevin Radcliffe to fully restore the unused site, with further investment planned to help it continue to grow.

The venue has so far benefitted from two new kitchens, an in-house chef and events manager being appointed, and the floor of its main room is resurfaced every week to ensure it remains in pristine condition. A further kitchen, situated in a shipping container within the existing site, is also set to be created in the coming months, subject to planning permission.

Mr Radcliffe sees the new appointments at the Secret Tower as being particularly significant, with Tom Robertshaw – formerly a head chef at Fresh Element – and highly respected events director Tracey Tickle both joining. Tracey has helped to oversee a number of major events in the North East, including Prince William’s visit to the Baltic last year.

And after recently securing its own premises licence, which enables The Secret Tower to increase the number of events it can host, plans are now in place to increase its bookings from the corporate market both regionally and nationally.

The Secret Tower – which was named due to its little-known presence within Newcastle city centre – has hosted a number of exclusive private events from major UK businesses, putting it on the corporate radar nationally, and was also a key events venue during the Great Exhibition of the North last year.

Mr Radcliffe said: “We have seen huge demand for weddings and from corporate bookings ever since we opened, but we really want to target the business market further as we see great scope for expansion there. We have hosted a number of exquisite corporate events and banquets for businesses working around the country, but the reality is that, to many companies in the North East and Newcastle, we are still a secret.

“With our new licence, which we secured with the ongoing support of Sarah Smith at Sintons, we are able to increase the level of events we are able to hold, and that gives us the ability to really step it up. We have invested significantly in making The Secret Tower a premium venue, and with our in-house chefs and their ability to create bespoke menus for every occasion, from fine dining to informal street food, alongside our capability to organise the very best weddings and events corporate and private clients, we can host any occasion.”

Sarah Smith, head of licensing at law firm Sintons, said: “Kevin has transformed this venue from a disused building to one of Newcastle’s most sought-after venues, and The Secret Tower has established itself as one of the key players in the city’s premium events market. Through securing this premises licence for the premises, allowing the venue to sell alcohol and provide entertainment, it gives Kevin the scope to expand his events offering even further. We wish him the very best of luck for the continued success and development of this superb venue, which is a true hidden gem in Newcastle.”

Protecting your assets essential in a competitive marketplace

As the craft beer industry becomes increasingly crowded, it is likely we will see a rise in disputes involving trading names as local producers and retailers seek to gain a competitive advantage in the market.

The recent dispute over the Yellow Belly ale is one case in point. The case centred around Yellow Belly, brewed by Derbyshire-based Buxton Brewery and Sweden’s Omnipollo, and the claim from rival Batemans Brewery that its name was too similar to its Yella Belly Gold brand.

Batemans claimed a breach of its trade mark on the basis of the similarity in names. As a result, production of Yellow Belly is set to end in the near future.

This again helps to highlight why it is so important to protect your intellectual property, and therefore your business, from challenges from competitors. A significant investment of time and often money is involved in developing your brand identity and logo, so is certainly worth protecting, and also clarifying whether you are free to use it at as early a stage as possible.

A registered trade mark is a valuable commercial asset and gives the owner an exclusive right to use that mark in relation to the goods or services listed in it. However, it is important to choose a trade mark that is acceptable to the Intellectual Property Office – a trade mark can be refused and can be challenged post-registration if it is a mark that has passed into the common language and has become a household name, is descriptive or is devoid of distinctive character.

It is vital to take legal advice if there is any doubt over the registration of your trade mark and whether you are free to carry out your activities without coming into conflict with the legal rights of others. Equally, be certain to seek advice if you feel your rights are being infringed by a competitor.

It is your business and your brand – make sure you know your rights and protect them where necessary.

Pippa Aitken is Head of IP at Sintons. Contact her on 0191 226 7842 or

The rise of the super-pub is set to continue apace

2018 has been hailed as the turning point for the traditional British pub. With market conditions where competition is now fierce, operators need to innovate to create new types of premises to attract a more sophisticated and savvy clientele.

The past year has seen the rise of the ‘super pub’, which has ensured that, while the total number of pubs nationally has fallen, there has been a net increase in the total trade area of occupied licensed premises and increased employee numbers in the sector.

These so called ‘super pubs’ are venues offering food and drink, often in modern purpose-built premises, and frequently in out of town locations or near to large new residential developments.

Such venues are enjoying strong popularity based on the fact they appeal to families for their dining element, but are equally welcomed by traditional drinkers and pub goers. The growth of these super pubs is a trend we expect to see continue, which will go hand in hand with the decline of the long-established ‘British boozer’.

While the uncertainty around Brexit and its implications has loomed large since June 2016 for leisure operators, and the growing pressure on margins expected to continue, the continual investment and creation of modern, desirable ‘super pub’ premises by the likes of Greene King and Marston’s has helped to instil confidence within the industry.

Many operators have been creative in their means of standing out from the crowd, with many turning to diversifying their offering to remain competitive, and that is something that needs to continue.

Although the preferences of drinkers have changed, which has led to the steady demise of the traditional pub, the level of demand is most certainly still there, which can give confidence to operators for the future.

Alok Loomba is a Partner in Real Estate at Sintons. Contact him on 0191 226 7843 or

The role of local authority licensing policies

A local authority’s Statement of Licensing Policy (SOLP) plays a very important role in the licensing process but is often overlooked by those operating in the leisure industry.

The purpose of the SOLP is to set out the position that the licensing authority wishes to take on particular matters in connection with the discharge of its licensing function. They generally include useful guidance as to the licensing process, how the authority expects premises to be managed and the type of conditions the authority generally expects to see offered as part of applications.

The document is important because, when discharging their functions under the Licensing Act 2003 (the Act), a licensing authority is required by law to do so with a view to promoting the licensing objectives and, in carrying out that function, they must have regard to their Licensing Statement and any guidance issued by the Secretary of State.

Licensing authorities are required to draw up a SOLP every five years and since the Act came into force, the content of the policies have on the whole developed as authorities seek to control the impact of licensed areas and put their own particular stamp on their area.

With the introduction in many authority areas of Cumulative Impact Policy zones (Newcastle and North Tyneside), late night levies (Newcastle) and Early Morning Restrictions Orders, policies are essential reading for applicants. As an applicant, it is essential to be familiar with the SOLP so that, for example, you don’t waste your time and money applying for a licence to allow licensed activities to 4am in an area where the SOLP quite clearly states that licensed activities would generally only be permitted to 11pm.

The advantages of policies are that they provide transparency and ensure that like applications are dealt with similarly, so there is fairness and consistency, as well as the promotion of efficient administration. They can protect businesses, residents and other users in an area from the proliferation of licensed venues.

But it is essential to remember that, whilst the authority must have regard to its SOLP, they are not bound by it. All applications must be considered on their own merits. That is essential as the disadvantages of a rigorously applied policy without flexibility can lead to stagnation of an area.

If the policy is applied without exception then investment will be stifled, resulting in licensed premises becoming run down, no new businesses entering the area to drive the market and a negative impact on the cultural and social  benefits that many licensed premises bring to a region.

The key for authorities is to use the policy to control applications which offer more of the same whilst encouraging applications which offer quality, innovation and cultural benefits.

The key for applicants it to understand the policy to ensure their application either falls within the required parameters or is exceptional enough to succeed on its merits.

Sarah Smith is Head of Licensing at Sintons. To speak to Sarah, contact her on 0191 226 4897 or

Brexit’s impact on the industry will take some time to assess

Despite Brexit looming ever closer, predicting its impact on workers, and the leisure industry in particular, remains as difficult as it did in June 2016.

Perhaps by the time you are reading this a resolution will have been reached and we will be moving smoothly towards a harmonious Brexit, but at the moment we seem to be creeping ever closer to an acrimonious “No Deal”. However, regardless of whether a deal can be reached or not, leaving the EU (assuming we do leave) will almost certainly result in more stringent border controls.

This will likely have the knock-on effect of discouraging foreign workers from coming to the UK. Many businesses in the leisure industry are already noticing a decrease in the number of new staff from other countries within the EU, which in some cases is making recruitment difficult. But what will happen to those EU citizens who are currently working in the UK leisure industry?

If a deal can be reached then it will almost certainly include a “Transition Period” which will effectively retain the status quo for EU citizens living and working in the UK and vice versa until 31 December 2020. However, if we exit Europe on 29 March 2019 with “No Deal” then there would be no specific arrangement in place for the future rights of EU citizens in the UK and UK citizens in the EU; although it would be possible for the UK to proceed with their existing proposal, but with no guarantee of reciprocity.

In the long term regardless of whether we exit with or without a deal in place, EU citizens working in the UK are unlikely to be able to continue to do so without a change in their status. Whilst many will apply for a work permit, or possibly citizenship, at present we don’t know what the visa requirements will be or who will be eligible. Some may feel that in order to ensure their job security they will need to return to mainland Europe, others may simply no longer feel welcome in post-Brexit Britain. In any event, there could be a significant drop in the number of EU citizens working in the leisure industry in the UK post March 2019.

At the present time, it is becoming increasingly frustrating that as Brexit gets ever closer, we are still in a position where we have no more certainty in terms of what awaits the leisure industry than we did in June 2016. In any event, whatever happens in March, Britain’s leisure industry’s relationship with the European Union will have to be ironed out long after the fundamentals are finally decided.

Fiona Campbell is an Associate in the Employment team at Sintons. Contact her on 0191 226 3703 or

Holiday lets can provide new income streams

Providing holiday accommodation has long been a popular farm diversification. What may have started as letting a spare cottage during popular periods can become a significant year-round business using existing cottages and converted buildings often supplemented by new-build units or glamping pods too.

This is a predicted area of growth for farms and other rural businesses, particularly in light of Brexit, and is also an area investors are considering as an addition to their portfolios. Developing existing operations to generate both seasonal and out-of-season income, taking advantage of the growing ‘staycation’ trend, is bound to prove popular.

To convert existing facilities, or create new ones, is a significant investment to make, so it is important to clarify the legal and tax obligations from the outset. There can also be different tax advantages and pitfalls in furnished holiday lets, so advice from your solicitor and accountant is always essential in advance.

Planning permission must be considered in both instances, even if existing buildings are on your property, and no work should be undertaken before this is secured. Tenant farmers should also check with their landlord before proceeding.

Securing permission is usually a straightforward process, but in some instances there can be complications which can lead to delays. It is wise to leave enough time to factor in any potential delays, so any unexpected setbacks do not impact on your plans and budgets.

From a tax perspective, there is an ongoing discussion over whether Business Property Relief (BPR) can be applied to such a diversification, and what the differentiation is between a holiday cottage business and a property investment.

BPR provides relief from Inheritance Tax (IHT) on business assets at a rate of 50% or 100%, depending on the type of assets involved, how they are held and how long they have been held. BPR is therefore a very valuable relief for succession planning and can produce significant tax savings for beneficiaries.

HMRC’s standard position is that BPR cannot be applied to businesses that ‘consist wholly or mainly of dealing in securities, stocks or shares, land or buildings or making or holding investments’ and they argue that this definition includes holiday lets on the basis they are generally owned as land investments, rather than as an income-generating hospitality business like a hotel or bed and breakfast.

However, there have been recent successful challenges to this ruling involving holiday lets, where it has been successfully argued that if the owner of the let is also providing a high level of service then BPR is available. However, to qualify, the amount of services performed would seem to need to be above those of a relatively standard nature.

In the case of Grace Joyce Graham (deceased) v HMRC, it was considered that additional services offered – such as homemade food and drinks, bikes, games, swimming pool, sauna and gardens, alongside personal touches and time of the owner – distinguished the let from a typical holiday letting investment, as it was more akin to a family-run hotel and thus BPR was allowed. However. until HMRC formally changes its position, this will remain the exception rather than the rule. It is wise to clarify your tax liabilities from the outset and to establish the nature of your business and what is to be intended.

Diversification as a rural business can undoubtedly hold significant potential, but advice should always be sought if there is any doubt about the process or resulting obligations.

Tom Wills is Head of Rural at Sintons. Contact him on 0191 226 3796 or

Diversification can bring success – but ensure you are compliant

In an increasingly competitive marketplace, leisure operators are turning to diversification to stand out from the crowd.

The addition of a distillery or microbrewery to the existing ‘traditional’ offering is a formula that is proving successful for many operators, and extends their reputation as a pub, bar or restaurant into a new domain.

Through creating your own product, you can create something bespoke backed by an innovative brand, which can often appeal to a whole new clientele and can lead to an increase in footfall – and therefore trade – for premises.

There are numerous very successful examples within Newcastle alone – Vaulkhard Group’s Newcastle Gin, distilled in Bealim House, has gained such a reputation it is now served in venues beyond the group’s own portfolio. Wylam Brewery’s array of much-loved ales, all brewed on site, are a huge factor in the success of its move into The Palace of Arts.

While this form of diversification can work very well, it is important that any operators considering opening their own distillery or microbrewery are fully aware of their obligations before progressing any plans. Some points to consider include:

  • Does your property permit the addition of such a facility? If you are not the owner of your premises, check your lease carefully and be sure to consult your landlord
  • Do the terms of your license allow you to carry this out? You must establish this at the outset, and look to secure a variation to your existing license if necessary
  • Are you aware of your regulatory obligations and the due legal process you will need to follow in opening such a facility?
  • Have you properly considered the financial implications? As well as the very significant investment that will be required in equipment and renovation work, your facilities must be properly insured, and it is wise to establish from the outset what additional obligations will be from HMRC
  • In creating a distillery or brewery, you will be creating your own product and brand, the identity of which should be protected. Have you considered a trade mark application for your brand, and checked you are not infringing any existing marks?

There is a lot to consider before going ahead with the idea of creating such an addition to your existing business, but through proper planning and consulting with specialist advisors, opening your own distillery or brewery can certainly be achievable. The benefits can be many, and can certainly help you gain a competitive edge in the bustling North East leisure scene.

Christopher Welch is Partner in the Corporate and Commercial team at Sintons. Contact him on 0191 226 7831 or

Micropub opened by first-time entrepreneur

A first-time entrepreneur has combined a desire to be his own boss with his love of real ale and rum to open a micropub on North Tyneside.

James Benson has established the Front Street Tap House in Monkseaton, following significant investment to transform the property into a traditional pub.

The venue offers a wide range of rums, with around 20 different varieties initially in stock, alongside a selection of real ales from independent breweries in the North East and Yorkshire. It is open every day but Monday.

Front Street Tap House is the first venture by James Benson, who was made redundant from customer service roles before deciding he wanted to take control of his own destiny.

He has based his first venture in 17b Front Street, near to the renowned coastal ‘beer-muda triangle’ of the Left Luggage Room in Monkseaton, and the Dog and Rabbit and Nord Bottle Shop in Whitley Bay, and which has been welcomed by fellow micropub operators around the North East.

James, originally from Leeds but who now lives in Wallsend, said: “Over a ten-year period, my wife and I had been made redundant six times between us, and I reached a point where I thought either I continue to work in this unstable corporate world where I could be looking for a new job every three years, or I be my own boss and do something that I’ve always wanted to do.

“Front Street Tap House is one of the only venues in the North East to specialise in rum, which is widely expected to become as popular as gin within the next five years, and we will also have a great range of ales too. The definition of a micropub is somewhere you can go to enjoy a drink while also enjoying conversation and some good craic, without the loud music and big screens you get in most places these days, and that is what we are going to create here.

“The coast is a brilliant place to be, its real ale venues are fantastic, and with the regeneration of Spanish City, it’s such a popular place and growing all the time. I have had so much support already for my venture from fellow owners of micropubs, such as the guys from the Left Luggage Room and from the Town Mouse in Newcastle, it’s a very welcoming and supportive network. I am really looking forward to the future and to welcoming real ale and rum lovers into Front Street Tap House.”

James has been supported in his licensing application by Sarah Smith, head of licensing at Sintons, with real estate solicitor Vinaya Jigajinni handling the completion of the premises lease.

Sarah Smith said: “James has taken his own love and knowledge of real ale and rum to create a super little venue, which is in an ideal location being so near to well-established fellow independent operators.

“James’ venture adds further to the growing portfolio of really dynamic and exciting independent leisure venues we have in the North East and we wish him the best of luck with the Front Street Tap House.”

Specialist licensing team praised for its ‘excellent track record’

The specialist licensing team at law firm Sintons has won further praise for its capability and quality, this time being hailed by Chambers 2019 for its “excellent track record”.

The team, regularly cited as a regional leader in its field, is singled out for its work in cumulative impact zones as well as in contested licensing issues. It is hailed for “not being afraid to go into battle for their client” and for its “broad spectrum of expertise”.

Sarah Smith, head of licensing, is again named as a key name in this area, with Chambers praising her as being “highly knowledgeable”, citing: “She is the kind of person you want fighting your corner”.

The latest high rankings from Chambers come only shortly after similar findings from Legal 500 2018, which named Sintons as a top-tier licensing firm and Sarah Smith as a leading individual.

The team has continued to be a leading name in this sector, winning instructions on some of the region’s most significant new leisure developments, including Stack in central Newcastle and the redevelopment of Spanish City in Whitley Bay.

Mark Quigley, managing partner of Sintons, said: “Our licensing team is undoubtedly one of the regional leaders in its field and continually wins new work from major leisure providers on some of the biggest and most significant schemes in the North East and indeed across the UK. Our expertise in this area is something few can rival, and we congratulate Sarah and her team for their continuing efforts in growing and developing the department.

“The findings of Chambers 2019 are again a rightful endorsement of our work and expertise in this area, and mirror the verdict of Legal 500 in confirming Sintons once again as a key name in licensing.”

Licensing again awarded top-tier ranking from Legal 500

The licensing team at law firm Sintons has again been awarded a top-tier ranking from Legal 500 in recognition of its work on some of the region’s most significant new leisure developments.

The specialist department at the Newcastle law firm is consistently highly rated for its unrivalled capability in the licensing field, with Legal 500 praising its “deep expertise in licensing law” and “good contacts with local authority officers”.

Sarah Smith, head of licensing at Sintons, is once again named as a leading individual for her outstanding work with leisure operators across the North and beyond.

The team has again been involved in a host of major projects, which have recently included the redevelopment of Spanish City in Whitley Bay, the creation of Stack in Newcastle city centre, and the opening of the Hadrian’s Tipi pop-up venue.

Legal 500 praised its ability to handle the full spectrum of licensing issues for leisure operators, including those in cumulative impact policy areas, as well as appeal and review proceedings.

Mark Quigley, managing partner at Sintons, said: “We are regarded in the highest terms for our licensing offering at Sintons, with us being the advisor of choice for a host of major leisure operators, and we are delighted to once again be ranked as a top-tier advisor by Legal 500, which provides an independent assessment of the legal landscape in the North of England.

“Sarah and her team offer an outstanding service to clients and have a knowledge and understanding of licensing matters that few can rival. The fact they continue to be instructed on many of the most significant new leisure developments is testament to their efforts.”

New leisure group plans expansion

A newly-established leisure group is looking to add further to its portfolio with the opening of more real ale venues, following the early success of its first venture.

Ouseburn Leisure Group was recently behind the opening of The Waiting Room, a micropub in Durham Railway Station which breathed new life into the derelict Grade II listed former ladies’ first-class waiting room, which dates back to 1872.

The venue, which has been refurbished with a six-figure investment – including a significant grant from the Railway Heritage Trust – and has created four jobs, has only been open for a matter of weeks but has already massively exceeded expectations, with Durham residents, North East real ale lovers and rail passengers all stopping by to sample its array of locally-sourced gins and real ales.

And now, the group is eyeing expansion, with a number of new potential sites in the North East under consideration for their next venue.

Graeme Robinson, managing director of Ouseburn Leisure Group, left his job as head of facilities at University of Sunderland to establish his new venture, and is now looking to press on with growing his new brand.

“The decision to open The Waiting Room was something totally new for me – I had reached a crossroads in my life and decided I wanted to start my own business. I have always had a passion for real ale, but beyond that probably didn’t really appreciate the full extent of what I was getting into, given that I didn’t have a background in leisure,” he said.

“However, in the few weeks since we opened, we have totally smashed our targets. We get a lot of rail travellers coming in, whether that’s for a swift pint or to unwind for a while ahead of their journey, and we have already established a regular clientele of locals too. The aim is to change people’s behaviours when they come to the railway station, so it isn’t just somewhere you go in time to catch a train – The Waiting Room is somewhere you can come to enjoy a relaxing atmosphere and try some local real ales and gins.

“The longer-term goal is definitely to open more real ale micropubs, and I’m looking at some sites already. It’s not something I would put a number on, but the next venue is already being considered.”

Ouseburn Leisure Group were supported in the opening of The Waiting Room by law firm Sintons, with head of licensing Sarah Smith – one of the leading licensing lawyers in the North of England – handling the successful license application.

Sarah Smith said: “The Waiting Room is a very charismatic venue, which has regenerated a derelict part of this historic railway station and truly has restored it to its former glory.

“Graeme has channelled his own passion for real ale into creating a micropub which is now attracting real ale lovers from Durham and far beyond. We wish him success with this and subsequent ventures, and will look forward to supporting Ouseburn Leisure Group as it grows.”

‘Excellent’ licensing team praised by Chambers 2018

The specialist licensing team at law firm Sintons has again been praised for being one of the best around, through the ratings of Chambers 2018.

The team was hailed as being a leading UK regional licensing specialist with an “excellent track record”, with head of department Sarah Smith said to be an outstanding name in her field.

Sintons’ licensing team works across the North East and wider UK with a host of leading leisure providers and major venues, and win praise from Chamber for its “attention to detail and can-do attitude”.

Sarah Smith was hailed for her ability to “often see problems before they arise” and the fact she makes each client feel “as if they are Sarah’s number-one priority, regardless of how many clients she is dealing with”.

The praise from Chambers 2018 – an annual assessment of law firms and their lawyers, based on factors including examples of work and client testimonials – comes shortly after the release of Legal 500 2017, which similarly praised the team and that of its head of department.

Mark Quigley, managing partner of Sintons, said: “Our licensing team is acknowledged as one of the best in the region, so we are very pleased that again its work is being recognised in the highest terms.

“Our vision as a firm is to set the standard for legal excellence, and in doing so, to become the law firm of choice for individuals, businesses and individuals regionally and nationally. We are pleased that the latest Chambers rankings, coming so soon after our exemplary Legal 500 ratings, offer further proof that we are making great strides towards achieving that.”

Sintons’ licensing team top-rated again by Legal 500 2017

The licensing team at law firm Sintons has again been ranked as one of the leaders in its field in the North of England by Legal 500.

The team was top-rated for yet another year by Legal 500 2017, which praised its ability to act for major regional and nationally-known operators.

Sarah Smith, head of licensing, was again named as one of the leading lawyers in the North of England.

The licensing team at Sintons has long been praised by Legal 500 for its unrivalled expertise in this area, with the firm continuing to be the go-to legal advisor by a host of leisure operators across the North East and beyond.

Legal 500 is widely regarded as the clients’ guide to the best law firms and top lawyers in the UK. Research is based on feedback from clients, submissions from law firms and interviews with leading lawyers and a team of researchers who have unrivalled experience in the market.

Mark Quigley, managing partner at Newcastle-based Sintons, said: “Our licensing team enjoys a well-deserved reputation as a leader in its field, with Sintons being a trusted long-term advisor to many leading names in the licensing and gambling sector. We are very pleased our presence in this sector has again been acknowledged by Legal 500.

“Our vision as a firm is to set the standard of legal excellence and in doing so to become the law firm of choice for individuals, businesses and organisations regionally and nationally. Our licensing team is just one area of the firm where we are making great strides in achieving this.”

New venue brings a taste of France to Newcastle

A new venue is opening in central Newcastle which offers an informal take on traditional French cuisine alongside a range of specially-sourced fine wines, and will create at least 10 new jobs in the process.

The French Quarter will open in the old Railway Arches on Westgate Road in the coming weeks to offer a French-style café experience alongside Tapas-style French dishes and fine wines in a casual, relaxed setting.

The two-storey venue’s name is inspired by the four elements offered by The French Quarter – it will be a café, wine bar, bistrot and market and will be open from breakfast until late evening. One unique feature will be the opportunity to purchase refillable bottles of wine, which will be filled directly from a barrel.

The French Quarter is the first venture in England by Cedric Boc-Ho, who hails from the Loire Valley in France, and his partner Catherine Metcalfe, from Northumberland. Since meeting in the Alps seven years ago, the pair have dreamed of opening a restaurant which combines Cedric’s knowledge and love for French food and wine with Catherine’s passion for informal dining and traditional, independent businesses.

The restaurant will create an initial 10 jobs, with more planned as it continues to grow. Having been inundated with job applications – with every applicant having some connection with France or a long-standing passion for French food or wine – The French Quarter now has a strong team in place ready for its opening next month.

Cedric, a wine enthusiast who holds a WSET level 3 qualification, is also looking to offer wine tasting experiences to groups across the region, either in The French Quarter’s private dining space or on a more personal level in a client’s home or business premises.

“It has been my dream to open a restaurant for so many years, since I was very young, and when Catherine and I moved to England and we found this site in The Arches, it felt like the perfect place to do that,” said Cedric.

“The French Quarter will bring something new. Newcastle is a city which already has a wide variety of restaurants, cafes and bars, but there is nothing like this. We are creating a meeting space for people to meet however they want, whether that is with a coffee and pastry, over a glass of wine, or in a bistro environment.

“But what is important is the informality. Here people are welcome to ask questions, to try our products and to share our passions for wine and food but equally they can sit back, relax and discover for themselves.”

Hexham-born Catherine said: “This is a huge project for us which we have planned for so long, and it is really exciting that we are almost ready to open our doors.

“Being part of an independent business community was an important factor from the outset, so we are really pleased with the location we have chosen, especially being so close to where I am from.”

Cedric and Catherine have been supported in their plans by Newcastle law firm Sintons, with the firm’s Head of Licensing and partner, Sarah Smith, securing a license for The French Quarter.

Sarah Smith said: “Even in a city as vibrant and diverse as Newcastle there is always room for something new and different, and The French Quarter is just that. The combination of high quality and informality is a winning formula.

“Throughout the licensing process I have been hugely impressed by Cedric and Catherine’s passion for the project and their dedication to detail. We wish them and their team every success.”

Sintons’ Licensing team highly rated by the 2016 Legal 500

The licensing team at Sintons has again been rated by Legal 500 as one of the best in the North, with head of department Sarah Smith named as a leading individual for a fourth consecutive year.

Sintons has again been named as a top-tier licensing firm by Legal 500 2016, and was praised for its expertise and deep knowledge of the leisure sector in which it operates, which enables its clients to enjoy a premium service.

Sarah Smith, Partner and head of licensing and gambling, was again named as one of the top lawyers in the North of England.

Sintons’ licensing team is one of the most highly-respected in the region for its work with leading leisure operators and its ability to successfully handle complex and controversial applications.

The Legal 500 is widely regarded as the clients' guide to the best law firms and top lawyers in the UK. Research is based on feedback from clients, submissions from law firms and interviews with leading lawyers and a team of researchers who have unrivalled experience in the market. 

Alan Dawson, Chairman of Sintons, said: “Our licensing team enjoys an unrivalled reputation across the region and beyond for its expertise and knowledge, so it is very pleasing that we have again been recognised by Legal 500. Sarah Smith is a true leader in her field and is quite rightly regarded by many as the ‘go to’ person for licensing matters.

“Sintons is very proud of its reputation for outstanding legal advice and deep personal service throughout the firm, and we are very pleased that Legal 500 has again recognised us for this.”

Exclusive Events Planned for Wynyard Hall

A historic stately home hotel in the region is set to host a range of exclusive events as part of its continued expansion and investment to confirm its place as one of the UK’s premier resorts. Wynyard Hall is looking to attract large-scale events to its Grade II-listed site including the likes of BBC’s Antiques Roadshow after securing a new premises licence allowing it to make use of the whole of the venue and its land.

The country house hotel has previously been approached by the cult BBC programme as a possible location, and can now be considered for such events through its new licence arrangements. Asian weddings, classical concerts and major large-scale corporate events can also now also be catered for, and are among the type of occasions Wynyard Hall is hoping to play host to.

Wynyard Hall is investing over £5.3m in developing its facilities, with a £1.6m walled rose garden one of the largest rose gardens in Europe set to be opened later this year, complete with a visitor centre, shop and café, which will stock local goods and produce.

The venue has already invested £1.7m in a Grand Marquee and management suite, to increase capacity for holding large-scale events, and future stages will include a £2m cookery school, children’s garden, and designated walks through the estate.

Paul Mackings, chief executive of Cameron Hall Developments, said: “These are very exciting times for Wynyard Hall and we are investing significantly in the whole historic estate. As well as the new facilities we are adding, which will really cement our place as one of the UK’s most desirable venues, our new licence now allows us to host and be considered for events on a scale we have never previously considered.

“Of course, everything we host will be absolutely in keeping with the Hall and its heritage, so we are looking at large-scale corporate events, car launches, classical concerts, and hopefully something like the Antiques Roadshow. We know they have looked at us before, as being a stately home we are in keeping with the kind of venue they choose, and that is something we would love to have here.

“Wynyard Hall is such a special place with its historic hall and parklands, and we are investing in bringing history to life through creating the likes of the rose garden, which is adding to what the Marquises of Londonderry created more than 200 years ago. Through being able to offer events on a scale we previously could not consider, we will be able to showcase this beautiful venue in new ways.”

The new premises licence was secured by Sarah Smith, Partner and Head of Licensing at Newcastle law firm Sintons.

She said: “Wynyard Hall is fast becoming regarded as one of the premium destinations to eat and to stay, not just in the North East but in the whole country. They are adding significantly to their already impressive facilities, and through their new licencing arrangements, are now able to accommodate events on a scale they previously could not. This is a hugely exciting time for Wynyard Hall and we are very pleased to be working with Paul and his team.”

Unique restaurant plans expansion

A unique high-end Indian restaurant, which operates as a social enterprise offering training and employment opportunities to children with special needs, is planning to open a second North East site within the next 18 months.

The Funky Indian opened in Sunderland late last year, and has won rave reviews in its first few weeks in business for its tapas style Indian food and quirky interior design.

While operating as a restaurant by evening, The Funky Indian run by serial restaurateur Kam Chera becomes a training academy during the day, running three 10 week courses each year for children from the city with special needs and disabilities.

The venue has partnered with two Sunderland schools the Barbara Priestman Academy and Portland Academy as well as Sunderland based PSB Training to run the scheme. Supporters of the project include Gentoo and Sunderland AFC.

As well as providing work experience and hospitality training, The Funky Indian has also pledged to provide some part-time positions at the end of each course, to add to the six jobs it has already created at its base in Tavistock Place. It will also work alongside other local food and catering companies to find job opportunities.

Now, Kam who also runs the two Amore restaurants in Roker and Ashbrooke is putting plans in place to open a second Funky Indian restaurant in Newcastle within the near future, to continue to expand his unique concept of high-quality dining as a social enterprise.

Kam said: “For all the time I’ve run Amore, we have held a Christmas party each year for children with special needs from the city, and from that came the idea to offer much more than that we wanted to offer training, practical skills, confidence building, and potentially a job at the end of it. We dedicate a full day each week for 10 weeks to these young people to equip them with the skills they will need to work in the hospitality sector.

“We are thrilled our idea for The Funky Indian has become reality and have had so much support from across the city and beyond. We are already looking at opening a second restaurant, most probably in Newcastle, within the next 18 months, such is our confidence in this unique concept.”

The legal aspects of the opening of The Funky Indian were handled by the leisure team at Newcastle law firm Sintons. Partners Sarah Smith and Alok Loomba handled the licensing and real estate aspects respectively.

Sarah Smith said: “As well as being a fabulous restaurant by night, with distinctive décor and great food, Kam has created something unique by day, operating it as a training academy for young people and giving them the skills and potential to help transform their lives. This is a really superb concept and we are delighted to see The Funky Indian growing and thriving as we knew it would.”

The Greyhound becomes The Earl of Pitt Street in £400,000 Refurbishment

A derelict pub in central Newcastle is to be converted into a ‘traditional public house with a unique twist’ in a £400,000 project by one of the city’s best known restaurateurs.

The Greyhound, on Pitt Street, is now set to reopen under new ownership as The Earl of Pitt Street a venue which aims to remain true to its roots as a traditional pub, but which offers exquisite food and interior décor described as ‘Vivienne Westwood meets Alfred Hitchcock.’

The Earl of Pitt Street is the latest project by Mark Lagun, award winning restaurateur and founder of the highly acclaimed Electric East, who has over 30 years’ experience of running venues in the city. His wife Libby is also involved in helping to revamp their latest venue.

The venue  which dates from the 1880s and had a chequered history in the years leading up to its closure four years ago is set to reopen in its new form next month, and work is now well underway to create an interior that Mark likens to ‘stepping into the Tardis.’

He said: “There is nothing like it in Newcastle, it will be totally unique. There are some great places around here, but I wanted to step it up a bit more and create somewhere that is absolutely ‘wow’.

“A lot of old pubs are being knocked down or refurbished to such a degree you forget what they used to be like. I wanted to retain the character of the place, as one of the only remaining traditional pubs in the city and the last original pub from the Scottish & Newcastle site.

“The outside is going to be a beautiful traditional old pub with hanging baskets, but the only way I can describe the interior is Vivienne Westwood meets Alfred Hitchcock. Décor is going to be a massive part of The Earl of Pitt Street. There are going to be open fires, lots of artwork around the place, curtains which I have designed myself in a camouflage tartan pattern. Alongside that will be a selection of cask ales from local breweries and a really wide variety of fantastic bistro-style food.

“I also want it to be like the ‘Cheers’ bar we used to see on television where you get a genuine friendly welcome, and it’s much more like a restaurant than a pub in terms of the personal service and attention you get. We’ve even created an upstairs smoking area which has a serving hatch to make it as much a part of the pub as we can, so no-one feels excluded or on the outside.

“This is going to be a venue which people will never have seen the like of before, but which they will want to come back to time and time again.”The creation of The Earl of Pitt Street has been supported legally by Newcastle law firm Sintons, with Partners Tim Gray and Sarah Smith overseeing the property and licensing work respectively.

Tim Gray, who has acted for Mark Lagun for over 20 years, said: “Mark is very well known for running some of Newcastle’s best venues and putting his own unique stamp on them, and The Earl of Pitt Street promises to be another gem. If anyone knows how to open a venue like this and make it a success, it’s Mark”

“Its location is ideal for attracting business people, students and football fans on matchdays, and I’m certain it will make a lasting impression on each and every customer who visits.”

England World Cup

Following consultation it has been agreed by Government that the licensing hours for England World Cup Football matches will be relaxed.
This applies only to England matches with a scheduled kick off time of 8pm or later (UK time).  The relaxation permits sale of alcohol and late night refreshment only for consumption on the premises and permits those regulated activities for four hours from kick off to a latest time of 1am.
For example an 8pm kick off would allow relaxation of hours to 12 midnight, a 9pm kick off would allow relaxation to 12 midnight and a 10pm kick off would allow relaxation to 1am.
Should you wish to operate later during those England games or for other games in the tournament you should seek a Temporary Event Notice.
Contact us for further assistance on drafting and submitting Temporary Event Notices.

If you require our assistance please do not hesitate to contact a member of our Leisure Services Group:

Sarah Smith
0191 226 4897             

Jackie Amos
Licensing Manager
0191 226 4891   

Kyrie Geach
Licensing Assistant 
0191 226 3747    

Have Your Say!

Under the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011 the Home Secretary has the power to prescribe in regulations that fee levels should be set by individual licensing authorities.

The Government have now published a consultation document on how licensing fees should be assessed in the future and at what level.

The document invites views on a number of specific aspects including the future of the current variable fee bands, whether the basis on which fees are determined should include discretionary mechanisms, the proposed cap levels and whether there should be a single annual fee date.

The consultation considers whether it would be appropriate to charge higher fees for premises which are open later or are open primarily for drinking.  It also discusses whether certain types of premises should be excluded at the discretion of the licensing authority. Such premises could be accommodation providers, theatres and cinemas, bingo halls, community amateur sports clubs and community premises.

This is likely to be a contentious debate as operators will undoubtedly face higher costs for applications – in some cases over a 400% increase!

The consultation runs until 10th April 2014. Information on the consultation and how to respond can be found on the Home Office website.

Make sure you have your say and respond before the deadline date.

Licensing Update – Gaming Machines


Parliament has recently made changes to the stake and prizes of a number of gaming machines. This impacts particularly on pubs and bars. Such premises are permitted (subject to notice or permit) to offer category C gaming machines. Historically these had a maximum stake of £1 and a maximum prize of £70. The stake will remain as £1 but the new maximum prize is £100.

Make sure you have the latest machines installed to attract customers.

If you require our assistance, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Christmas may be in 4 weeks but the party season starts sooner!

With many bars, restaurants and clubs taking advantage of the Christmas party season, to host office parties and events, it is essential to check that your premises licence allows you to do everything you need to make the party go with a swing.

Often the standard provisions of a premises licence don’t offer the flexibility required for the festive period.

For example, do you want to offer additional licensed activities? Music and dancing or a live band to see in the New Year?

Are the hours during which you can provide regulated activities sufficient for the events you are hosting? You don’t want to be closing the bar at midnight on New Year’s Eve!

Are the conditions on your licence too restrictive? Do you want an event where people can stand and chat around the buffet table but your licence states that customers must be sat down?

If you want to make sure you maximise your returns this festive period let us advise you on submitting a Temporary Event Notice.  After all what would Christmas be without a bit of rocking around the Christmas tree?

 If you require our assistance, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Sarah Smith
0191 226 4897

Newcastle City Council Implementation of Late Night Levy

Newcastle City Council have recently sent letters to premises licence holders who are likely to be affected by the late night levy which is to be introduced within Newcastle City Council’s authority area from 1st November 2013.

The levy will affect all premises authorised to sell alcohol between 12 midnight and 6.00 a.m.

The Council letter sets out the amount of levy payable by each premises and the date on which it is payable.

If you wish to avoid the levy you may do so by reducing the terminal hour of alcohol sales permitted under your premises licence to midnight. The application process is by way of a minor variation.

In order to avoid the levy any variation application must be finalised by 1st November 2013. The Council have indicated that they will not charge a fee for these variations, but have requested applications be submitted no later than 1st September 2013.

If you wish to vary your licence to avoid the levy please contact the Licensing Team.