I feel like a guinea pigin this inflexible system

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Related tags: Red tape, Local authority, License

I have been a multiple licensee for more than 25 years and have been increasingly overwhelmed by the red tape. My main frustration has always been...

I have been a multiple licensee for more than 25 years and have been increasingly overwhelmed by the red tape. My main frustration has always been that the legislation is the same for all but it is interpreted so differently by councils (A Health & Safety manual issued by one council was condemned by another as completely useless when I copied it and used it in their area).

You can imagine my reaction to the news some years ago that a tried-and-tested system with the magistrates was to be taken over by local councils.

The information I received was 86 A4 pages. I completed all the relevant sections, drew up the plans and, as invited, made use of the checking service that the council offered on 30 March. The nominated checker had not received any variations (they had received only two applications from nightclubs, both of which had been rejected on technicalities) so asked for the department head to join us.

Seventy-five minutes later they gave me a short list of corrections. For example, in the application under Public Safety section, I had to write SC1,3,4,5,6,7,8,11,12,13,14,15,17,18,19 to comply ­ but I still cannot find any reference to this in the notes issued. I was also instructed to change the certificate of posting to that date. They also acknowledged that I was publishing the notice on 8 April in the local paper.

I left the office and made the changes then placed the advert in the paper, put the notice in the pub window and photocopied the relevant papers to serve on the eight authorities (496 pieces of paper).

On 11 April, I received notification that the application had been rejected.

By mistake, I had sent a copy rather than the original. This could have been dealt with by phone. Instead, I now have to send them the original and, because of the time involved, re-serve on all eight authorities (another 496 pieces of paper). I will also have to re-advertise at a repeat cost of £320.

Despite checking the cheque on 30 March, they claimed I had sent in the wrong fee. We are in band C, not B as they now state (shame, it would have saved me £145).

I also have to serve another copy of the plans on each authority.

I was told by the head of department that I should have booked another checking session. I do not have the time to waste; they may at this time, but what happens when everybody suddenly makes their application, especially, as they laughingly told me, when half the department are on holiday in July and August?

I feel that I have been used as a guinea pig in a system that is totally inflexible (a signature was in dark blue ink and had to be resigned in black after rejection); I fear for the next few months especially but am glad to be getting out of the trade as the red tape is strangling a once enjoyable way of life.

Stephen J Blake FBII

Benson Blakes Bar & Grill

88-89 St Johns Street

Bury St Edmunds

With such variation, how can we win approval?

We are now trying to submit applications for premises licences to the many local authorities around the country. Each local authority has its owninternal policy requirements, with different department for health, pollution, food, etc, plus the fire authority and the police all have their own requirements which need to be shown on the application form or on the plan. All plans requirements appear to be different from one local authority to the next. How are we able to submit an application that will be granted not rejected?

Rejection seems to be the norm even if it means colouring a certain part of the plan or crossing out a certain word; this could be done over the phone by agreement or by attending the local authority's office, saving time and money all round.

The new procedure was meant to be easy and cheap ­ not the case as everyone has discovered.

Where one is applying for transitional premises licence ­ whether with variation or not ­ I feel one should not be subject to the many requirements when lodging an application. The premises are operating with no problems. The plans have been approved by the licensing justices, fire, health, police and building control. If one is applying for a straight transition, nothing has changed so why do we have to extend the details on the plans to comply with all the various requirements of the same authorities?

On variation of hours or regulated entertainment, again, why do we have to comply with all the additional information, as nothing has changed?

I have always been positive about the new procedures assuming that common sense would prevail, but unfortunately it has not and the whole procedure is getting more complicated. How the licensees are going to get their heads around it I just do not know.

Eunice Parker

Small World

36 Smithhurst Road



Licensing should have stayed with magistrates

I have more than 20 years of connections to the licensed trade. Licensees are often targeted by the police when in fact the licensees are only carrying out orders from their retail operation managers (ROMs). The ROM sets impossible budgets which mean managers will often break the law to achieve, for instance, hiding price lists at the weekend in order to increase prices when young people are in the town pubs.

Some years ago magistrates were very reluctant to grant licences to any Tom Dick or Harry. Today, anyone with £10,000 can be put forward as a licensee and the chances are that as long as he can prove he has been on a brewery-sponsored course, he will be put up for the licence.

Some years ago a licensee went into a pub and unless he was promoted or demoted he remained in that pub for four to five years. Today it is possible to see four to five different licensees in one year.

Violence in pubs has increased because the brewers employ too many young people as licensees. The old-time landlord always went out from behind the bar for a natter or to collect a few glasses, this way he kept an eye open for any problem areas. Today, the licensee, because of cutbacks and despite the "48-hour week" law, spends most of his/her time serving behind the counter.

Young licensees dare not answer an ROM back. A lot of today's licensees work for less than £5 an hour ­ this does not give them any incentive to work.

The changes to the licensing laws will close 5,000 pubs in the next two years. Once the council takes over in November it will become almost impossible to run a pub. Licensing should've been left to the magistrates and local police authorities.

Tom Smith


(address supplied)

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