A leading café-bar operator is among the first to expand into late-night bars specifically to exploit future licensing reform.
Derby-based Fat Cat Café Bars has opened its first "lounge bar", Bluu, in London, with plans for two more in Manchester and Birmingham.
Formed eight years ago by Matt Saunders and Simon Patterson, the company has opened a national chain of nine pubs branded as Fat Cat, aimed at over-25s.
Saunders said: "Bluu is aimed at a slightly younger profile and is a late-night lounge bar where people will stay rather than go to a nightclub.
"We would like to have a number of these in view of the relaxation in licensing, which we hope will be in place by Christmas next year.
"We've been wanting to do something new for a while. When we were offered the Bluu site, we realised it wasn't suitable for a Fat Cat but was an opportunity to develop something that could be rolled out to stylish areas of cities such as Manchester, Birmingham or Newcastle."
He said the company was looking at new ways of raising cash to accelerate the roll-out of Bluu, such as new bank or venture capital finance.
Last year Fat Cat Café Bars said it would consider floating on the Stock Exchange's Alternative Investment Market by the end of 2000 "if the time was right".
But Saunders said the current plan was to continue expanding Fat Cat "organically", with new sites being sought.
After starting in Bangor, North Wales, Fat Cat branched out to Derby, Chester, Nottingham, Leicester, Llandudno and Leeds.
In November 1998 it opened at Bow Wharf in East London and now has Bluu in Hoxton, also in East London.
The ninth Fat Cat opened in Northampton last summer and the next is due to open in July in Deansgate Locks, Manchester.
The city centre bar and restaurant development, which is in 12 converted arches next to the Rochdale Canal, is due to open this summer.
Fat Cat's neighbours will include Inventive Leisure's Revolution vodka bar, Standard Court's Prada Café and Urban Splash's second Baa Bar.
Bass Leisure Retail is unveiling a new concept bar, covering 13,000sq ft, although no details are available yet.
Deansgate Locks has been created by Westport Developments, which carried out other developments in Manchester, such as Mash & Air in Canal Street and Barça in Castlefield.