“A House of Lords ruling in the case of Charter v Race Relations Board (1973) decided that a club which not only in theory but also in practice operated a system of proposing and seconding new members, followed by consideration of the acceptability of applications by the club committee, was deemed to be a private members’ club. If a club genuinely selects its members on personal grounds (rather than, for example, accepting anyone who will pay a fee) it is a private members’ club.”
“It is possible to avoid the necessity of a PEL (public entertainment license) by setting up a private members club. However this can be complicated, so it would be a good idea to get legal advice. For example, if alcohol is on sale on the club premises formal registration must be made to the magistrates court so that a hearing can consider all aspects of the club formation (a minimum required number of members, rules, committee structure etc). This is not an easy option. If alcohol is not to be sold on the club’s premises formal registration is not necessary. However it is advisable to set up the club with membership forms, committee, membership list etc, if only to reassure a local authority that it is properly constituted (in case they threatened action on the basis that a particular event was public). But this is not the end of the story. You need to check whether your local authority has adopted the Private Places of Entertainment Act 1967 – if they have, you would need to obtain a different type of formal license!”
These are the only two clear references to private members clubs I have been able to find so far. I will check with some legal bods to try to track down some more legislation on it. But on the basis of the above, I would suggest that you do the following:
1. Formally constitute yourselves into a club. Do this by holding a meeting, electing a chair, secretary and treasurer and take minutes. Anyone from the current group of interested bods can make up this initial committee – the members of the committee can be changed later if need be. Initially, however, you need to have your basic club and its core members. You also need to formalize you constitution or core principles.
2. Set out basic selection criteria of adopting new members– maybe a total of three points or criteria that new members must meet – for example:
a) must own, or have owned / driven / lived in / used - a converted classic
b) must be known and approved by an existing member
c) must be able to contribute something of worth to the club (i.e., run a welding workshop for kids, own a marquee, have legal skills…whatever…)
3. Decide who will be on the selection sub-committee (max three people), decide how many time a year (minimum) it will meet (quarterly or just before events?) and outline membership procedures. For example:
a) all potential new members must be nominated by an existing member and seconded by another member
b) all potential new members must then be considered by the selection committee.
c) If they meet the selection criteria and pay their membership fee, they become a member.
d) Once they have been accepted as a member, they should get an acceptance letter and membership number linked to the membership list held by the selection committee. Membership numbers can then be ticked off on the gate at events and used should the council require verification.
4. Don’t run any bars at events – it will have to be bring your own or you’re likely to get trouble.
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