by Tony Halstead
More than 1,000 pubs could miss the boat and be forced to close their doors when the new licensing regime comes into force in just over a month.
Hundreds of other licensed premises will have to trade on existing grandfather rights until well into the new year as courts become clogged with a mass of appeals following refusals for variations in hours.
The number of mainstream pubs that could be without new licences when the laws change on 24 November (second appointed day) are estimated to be 'at least 1,000 and probably considerably more', according to Morning Advertiser legal expert Peter Coulson.
This number is expected to soar when other licensed premises such as sports clubs, restaurants, food shops and other multi-purpose leisure venues are included.
'Indications are that upwards of 1,000 pubs will not have a licence come 24 November,' said Coulson.
'There are also a tremendous number of appeals still pending with people now in a long queue before they discover whether their variation applications will be successful.
'It's going to be well into next year before all this has been finally put to bed,' he warned.
The Department for Culture Media & Sport believes that 99% of pubs have now got their applications submitted to local councils.
But Coulson said the sheer range of different licensed premises, which now includes fish and chip shops, cafes and take-aways, made accurate predictions very difficult.
Licensing minister James Purnell revealed to a meeting of licensing officers and pubco bosses in Lincolnshire this week that he believed the timetable was on course.
Lawyer Anthony Horne of Manchester-based Licensing Legal said it was still not beyond the bounds of possibility that the Act could be delayed.
But he said a discretionary approach - similar to the policy adopted by police and councils into delays in the issue of new Security Industry Authority badges for doorstaff - could be extended to pubs if they could demonstrate their licence applications had been properly processed and in the system.