Food pubs have welcomed the proposals for later opening hours announced by the government in the Queen's Speech.
Proposals for licensing reform, which were outlined by the government two weeks ago, will mean pubs will be able to choose their own closing time - as long as local residents do not object.
Licensees across the country have welcomed news of longer opening hours, albeit with some reservations about the rest of the bill.
Although town centre pubs have been most supportive of longer opening hours, rural pubs are also likely to benefit from the change. Many pubs in remote locations rely on their food offering to make money and opening longer could benefit them by allowing customers to stay longer and attracting tourists who often like to eat later. Peter McCarter, licensee of the Ratcatchers Inn in Cawston, Norfolk, said longer opening hours would benefit his remote pub at weekends.
"There's not the people about during the week to justify opening later but it would be something we'd consider at a weekend. We're already extending our hours to all day at the weekend so we might think about opening later." Pub companies have also welcomed news of later opening hours. Karen Jones, chief executive of Spirit Group, which runs award-winning gastro pubs as well as the Qs and Wacky Warehouse chains, said: "These changes will bring business benefits to Spirit, the industry and help to boost UK tourism."
Food pubs have suffered recently as a result of changes to the law surrounding supper hours certificates. Until April this year pubs with a restaurant section could apply for a supper hours certificate. It meant that, as long as alcohol was served alongside a sit-down meal, the pub could open until midnight, with drinking up time extended from 20 minutes to 30 minutes.
In April, however, the law changed and supper hours certificates were abolished.
In theory this meant things were easier for licensees, who no longer had to apply for an extra licence. In practice, though, few licensees realised the law had changed. Now it is hoped the new laws, which will allow licensees to choose their opening hours, will help clarify the situation. A different benefit of the reform is plans to make pubs more family friendly. Children's certificates will become a thing of the past, with children being allowed, at the licensee's discretion, in most pubs.
This means more food pubs will be able to cash in on the growing demand for outlets that cater for children and parents alike.
Ratcatchers' licensee Peter McCarter said: "This is a good thing. The future is being family friendly and I think a lot more people will come to pubs if they can bring their children."