Pubs and clubs may miss deadline for new licences

Issue date: 20 July 2005

Issue date: 19/07/05

The new Licensing Act, which removes the responsibility for licensing from magistrates and places it on local authorities, comes into force in November 2005. A large number of premises have yet to apply for licences although the deadline for the first stage in the process is August 6. Professor Roy Light, from the University of the West of England’s Faculty of Law is investigating the likely impact of the new regulations on law and order.

“Certain aspects of the new Act have led to fears that it will result in 24-hour drinking and an increase in the problem of binge-drinking,” said Professor Light. “However, at the moment the main concern is that with so many premises still to apply for their basic licence many will have to close when the new law comes into effect in November as they will not have the necessary new licence.

According to Professor Light, Director of UWE’s Centre for Legal Research, liberalisation of liquor laws was already gathering pace prior to 2003. For example, good practice guidelines published in 1999 stated that considerations of ‘need’ no longer had to be taken into account by magistrates when considering applications for new licences. It was this change that led to virtually unlimited expansion in the number of licensed premises, often concentrated together in town and city centres.

Professor Light added: “Even if licensees have no intention of changing their opening hours they have to apply for new licences and these now relate to individuals as well as the premises themselves, meaning a vast increase in the number required – from the present 180,000 to possibly as many as 500,000. In addition, premises that never needed a licence in the past, such as takeaways serving hot food and drink after 11 pm, will need to apply for licenses for the first time. This is because the Act establishes a single integrated scheme for licensing premises, which are used for the supply of alcohol, to provide regulated entertainment or to provide late night refreshment

“It is unlikely that many bars will apply for 24-hour drinking but they are likely to ask for two or three extra hours to give themselves the option of opening for extended hours in the future.”

In addition, premises selling hot food between 11 pm and 5am will also need to be licensed and this includes burger vans and takeaways, and also garages serving hot drinks. This is based on the notion that late night food outlets attract drunken people.

According to Professor Light,
“This legislation appears ill though out, ill conceived, unnecessary and a bureaucratic nightmare. It replaces a system that was working well with one that may take years to bed in and settle down. It contains criminal offences attracting up to six months imprisonment and there is no clear understanding of which people or organisations might be liable for these offences. The new law claims to be intended to give more say and rights to local residents, but many people living close to public houses that are applying to stay open until one or two am may not agree with this view.”


Editor’s notes

• The Licensing Act 2003 establishes a single integrated scheme for licensing premises, which are used for the supply of alcohol, to provide regulated entertainment or to provide late night refreshment. Permission to carry on some or all of these licensable activities will now be contained in a single licence – the premises licence.
For more information see:

• Professor Light’s research has appeared in practitioner journals such as the Modern Law Review and Local Governance. His report entitled Controlling Supply: The Concept of Need in Liquor Licensing was funded by the Alcohol Research Council and he is currently advising several local authorities on their new licensing responsibilities.
• References for further information include:

– The Licensing Act 2003: liberal constraint? Modern Law Review (2005) 68(2) 268-285
– Local Authority Decision Making and the Licensing Act 2003 Local Governance (2004) 30(2) 55-66
– Prosecuting under-age sales, Licensing Review (2005) 57(2) (forthcoming July 2005)
– 'Licensing law: five book reviews' Solicitors Journal, 149, 701, 10 June 2005
– 'Local authority responsibility and hearings under the Licensing Act' Solicitors Journal 149, 498, 26 April 2005
– The Appeals Process under the Licensing Act 2003' Solicitors Journal 149, 109, 28/1/2005
– 'Licensing Update' Solicitors Journal 148, 44, 1341, 19/11/2004

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