The trade is reeling from the news that licensing reform could be shelved for at least two years.
According to government sources, the Bill has been dropped from the Queen's speech, which sets out the Government's legislative programme.
It was expected that the proposals, which were one of the Government's pledges before the General Election, would be implemented by next year.
The Licensing Reform Bill would see more flexible opening hours and a dual system of licensing individuals and premises.
However, it has run into controversy over the Government's intention to transfer control from magistrates courts to local authorities.
Leading trade figures have warned that the whole reform package could be delayed if the Government continued to come under attack on this one issue.
There have also been fears about the impact of responsibility for licensing reform being transferred from the Home Office to the Department of Culture, Media and Sport.
The Government will not comment on the content of the Queen's speech until it is unveiled at the opening of parliament on Wednesday.
If the Licensing Reform Bill is not included until next year's Queen's speech, the earliest date for introduction would be in 2003.
According to The Observer, Whitehall sources said the legislative agenda was stuffed already with heavyweight bills on health, crime and education and that opening hours were less of a priority.
A spokesman for the Brewers and Licensed Retailers Association said: "This is hugely disappointing, not just for us but for millions of people." Related stories:
Licensing to shift from Home Office to culture ministry (12 June, 2001)