Retailers have just under two months until they are required to ensure their wholesaler is legally registered to sell alcohol, or risk facing a fine or prosecution.

The Alcohol Wholesaler Registration Scheme (AWRS), which goes live on April 1, will be an online list of registered, licenced alcohol wholesalers, each with a unique code – or unique reference number (URN) – for identification.

The responsibility is on retailers to check their wholesaler is registered – penalties, including seizure of any alcohol on the premises, fines and even prosecution in some cases, could be handed out to retailers buying from unregistered wholesalers.

Retailers who regularly sell large quantities of alcohol to other businesses, such as a local hotel or restaurant, for instance, will be classed as wholesalers and need to be registered on AWRS.

For those selling a large quantity of alcohol to a local business or event on the odd occasion per year, registration is not necessary. However, retailers regularly supplying a local business or businesses with alcohol in large quantities, such as a few crates of beer or multiple wine cases, must register.

Retailers, make sure to:

  • Check your alcohol wholesaler has an AWRS unique reference number (URN)
  • Register on the gov.uk website if you regularly supply alcohol to other businesses
  • Never knowingly buy from an unregistered alcohol wholesaler
  • Contact the FWD or HMRC if you know of an unregistered alcohol wholesaler