In the meanwhile it was agreed by those fine people "The Bunch" (they who run and organize that great bastion of real ale events, the Shelford Feast) that I should apply for a personal license so that we have a licensee on the committee (if you call us that). The government have been trying to insist that there is a licensee on any club and pub premises whilst they are open to sell alcohol. The reality could not be further from the truth. A licensee has to be in charge, BUT he can be the other side of the world and may have authorised someone else to be in charge. However, if anything goes wrong, the buck stops with the licensee and the penalties are incredible... A fine of up to £2,000 and or 6 months in jail.

Anyway I bit the bullet and joined Bernard Lee who organizes courses that allow you to take the British Innkeepers Institute exam, thus giving you the necessary qualification to apply for the license. It's as well to do your homework before you agree to go on these courses; the fees can vary from £110 to over £200. Bernard came well recommended and was brilliant at steering us through the labyrinth of legislation you have to know prior to the exam.

The £135 was money very well spent, and when I arrived for the course I was very pleased to see many friends including Alison and Tracey from The John Barleycorn in Duxford and my old mucker from Radio Cambridgeshire and The Pink Geranium, Steven Saunders. Bernard was absolutely brilliant and I am sure there will have been very few failures on that day. We started at 9.30 am, worked until 1, had a lovely lunch in The Star in Melbourn, (a nice pint of Black Sheep too) arrived back at 2 and had another hour before the exam. 40 questions had to be answered. It was essential that the first 8 were completed successfully and then 12 out of the next 22. Modesty forbids that I tell you how well I did, but I must admit when I left I guessed I had passed, and so it was to be.

The best way to liken the personal license is to that of a driving license; once you've have got it, you keep it and in the same way that you can drive any car, you can work or be in charge of any licensed venue. This is an essential tool of the trade, and to anyone who has not done so - remember if I passed, anyone can!

Jerry Brown
Bernard Lee: 4, The Green, Duxford, 01223 837160, or www.runapub.com