by Ewan Turney
Licensing solicitor Jeremy Allen believes a significant number of licensed premises will miss out on claiming grandfather rights because the Government refuses to admit mistakes in the reform timetable.
His remarks come after licensing minister James Purnell insisted the reform timetable would remain in place despite calls for an extension of the deadlines.
Allen, of Poppleston Allen, believes there should have been at least a nine-month period designated for the transition period. "I have always been in favour of putting back the 6 August deadline because it makes it almost impossible to achieve everything," he said.
"You have to wait for plans, there was a problem with electronic forms being available and the form is a complicated one."
Allen would like the Govern-ment to pass a one-clause bill to put back the 6 August deadline as well as the second appointed day, but he does not believe this is a realistic possibility.
"The opposition parties would have a field day even if the bill was tightly worded or they may try and hijack it and try and put reform back until 2010," he said.
"It would also mean the Government admitting they got it wrong and it is far easier to blame the trade." He believes those most at risk of missing out are private clubs, restaurants and independently-owned pubs.
Poppleston Allen has just closed its books to any new customers highlighting a major problem for licensees seeking advice at this late stage. "We can't guarantee completing forms by 6 August now so there is obviously no point in taking on any more clients," he said.
"We are advising people to use our website and seek advice from the council. The danger with the council though is you may end up with more in your operating schedule and therefore more conditions than you wanted. It is important to get independent advice if possible."
l A new guide Alcohol & Entertainment Licensing Law is now available. Its authors are Jeremy Allen, Susanna Poppleston and Colin Manchester.