Late night operator Ultimate Leisure has slammed what it describes as an "agenda to attempt to force fast track change of a drinking culture established over generations".
Announcing that it expects full year profits to be slightly ahead of last year's figures, north east based Ultimate claimed that following a directive from the Home Office reminding police forces of their responsibilities, powers to tackle 'problem' pubs are being used "arbitrarily and applied inconsistently across certain licensing areas".
Ultimate said this is creating "uncertainty and confusion for the trade as a whole and as a company we are being forced to exercise even greater caution in terms of site selection and general trading".
The company said it agreed in principle with the powers granted to the police under the 2001 Criminal Justice Act and that their use would be positive for the group in the long term. However it warned such inconsistency and uncertainty would have a negative short term impact on the High Street bar and nightclub sector "as customers became cautious about visiting town centres".