Linus is leading man for licensing
A well-known and respected face in the hospitality and convenience legal sector, Linus Murray, a Partner at Belfast-based commercial law firm McKees, tells NR why it’s currently an exciting time to be working in the industry.
Having worked in the legal and private sector for over 25 years, Linus Murray has extensive experience in the licensing and convenience industry. This makes him best placed to advise and guide those in the retail sector on obtaining licences for their stores.
The demand for off sales increased significantly during the pandemic, with hospitality shut down and consumers seeking an alternative way to still enjoy their drinks at home. Retailers capitalised on this opportunity, introducing off sales into stores, providing customers with even more options to satisfy all their shopping needs.
FOOTFALL AND SPEND
Linus said many retailers described the increase in footfall and spend as being “like Christmas every day”.
“During covid, shop turnover was very significant and this continued for a long, long time,” said Linus.
“The commercial benefit for a shop getting a licence is very evident – if you can get an off sales into a shop, you are going to get approximately 20% more spend in your store. This comes from impulse buys, so commercially it is very viable and very lucrative.”
With 25 years’ commercial experience specialising in hospitality and licensing, Linus was named a new partner at Belfast-based law firm, McKees last November, a move he describes as a “perfect fit”.
‘The commercial benefit for a shop getting a licence is very evident – if you can get an off sales into a shop, you are going to get approximately 20% more spend in your store’
“I enjoy working in the hospitality and convenience legal sectors and helping our clients grow their business. It’s an exciting, challenging time and business is going really well,” he said.
In the last few years Linus has secured licences for approximately 20 new mixed trade convenience licences across Northern Ireland, and with a host of lucrative clients, including Musgrave, he is well established as the key figure in the industry to turn to.
“Musgrave, which operates the SuperValu, Centra and Mace retail brands, has been very pleased with what we’ve done with Managing Director Trevor Magill describing it as being transformational for the business. Because myself and the licensing team at McKees have extensive experience in this area, we can make the process relatively easy for them.”
McKees recently assisted SuperValu in Newry in securing a mixed trade convenience licence in approximately eight weeks. We spoke to David Og Downey and he said: “McKees made what had appeared to us to be a complex and extremely difficult process to be straightforward and their expertise and professionalism was exceptional. Securing a licence for our store has been transformational for the business.”
When a retailer approaches McKees, the firm takes ownership of the case from the outset, carrying out a preliminary review of the prospects of getting a licence and then sourcing a suitable licence for them.
“Once we receive that initial phone call and establish what they want, we will take control from start to finish. At the moment, a licence costs in the region of £100,000 to £110,000, that is on the back of the surrender principle.”
Linus describes the surrender principle as the main challenge for retailers.
“To get a new licence, you have to surrender a licence. You can’t just create a new off sales, you need to surrender a licence and show there is a need for an off sales in the area,” he said.
‘Preparation is key, you cannot be prepared enough – that is why I am very focused on making sure that cases are presented as thoroughly as possible’
“It is very common to get objections from other interested parties and that’s when the process can become complex, requiring expert legal and planning advice. An unopposed application usually takes in the region of two to three months, while an opposed application can take up to 12 months. There is court involvement, other experts, such as planning experts and then the application is presented to the Judge, who will make a determination.
“Preparation is key, you cannot be prepared enough – that is why I am very focused on making sure that cases are presented as thoroughly as possible.
“At McKees, not only do we have the legal expertise, but we have the commercial and strategic expertise, where we can advise the retailers on all aspects of their legal work.
“The key incentive is if you can have an off sales on the site from day one, it enhances the commerciality of the business. So, we are involved with businesses from start to finish and we are keen to represent as many of those retailers in the sector to the best of our ability.”
To contact Linus Murray or the licensing team at McKees, call 028 9023 2303, email firstname.lastname@example.org or go to www.mckees-law.com for further information on the services available.
TO VIEW THE FULL FEATURE WITH LINUS MURRAY IN THE NEIGHBOURHOOD RETAILER MARCH ISSUE, CLICK HERE