Trade relieved as attempt to delay Licensing Act fails

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The trade breathed a collective sigh of relief this week as a last-ditch attempt in Parliament to delay the implementation of the Licensing Act...

The trade breathed a collective sigh of relief this week as a last-ditch attempt in Parliament to delay the implementation of the Licensing Act failed.

A Commons motion threatened licensees with the possibility of having paid thousands of pounds for a new licence without being able to exercise their new rights from the start-date of November 24.

The motion, tabled by the Conservatives, was defeated by 74 votes in the Commons this week. It follows a House of Lords motion in which peers voted by a majority of 33 to delay the Act.

Licensees were glad a go-ahead was confirmed, but reacted with frustration that the government would consider delaying the start of a regime into which they have poured huge amounts of money and effort.

Shane Feeney, licensee of the Edgar Wallace in Westminster, London, said: "We've spent all this money and we're not getting a lot out of it. The government wasn't going to refund us our money, was it?

"We've spent £15,000 so far and it's been a massive waste of time and money."

Rick Robinson, licensee of the Willoughby Arms in Kingston-Upon-Thames, said: "Let's face it, it's cost us all a huge amount. If they had delayed it, that £800 of my money would have been tied up. We've all planned for it. Like it or lump it, it's coming."

Others were angry at the attempt to delay the Act, something they saw as a response to unfounded fears that pubs would become a 24-hour menace.

The trade moved to quell such fears as the Department for Culture, Media & Sport reported that only 0.5 per cent of venues nationwide had been granted 24-hour licences.

"The block was on the perceived 24-hour licensing, which isn't really going to exist," said Roger Jackson, licensee of the Anglesey Arms in Chichester.

"We're very happy it's coming on the 24th. If it had been delayed, I would still have had to renew it on the same date. We have waited long enough."

Exclusive Publican research

Over four-fifths of consumers will not spend any more time in the pub when the new licensing regime arrives, an exclusive survey for The Publican has revealed.

The result confirms something the trade has been saying for a long time - that later licensing, under which most pubs have been granted only an extra hour's opening time, will not drastically alter the amount of alcohol pub-goers drink. Our poll, conducted by data analysts MarketPublic, found 86 per cent of pub-goers saying they will not spend more time in the pub after November 24. It also seems that the closing times for which most pubs have applied conforms to the wishes of consumers, as 40 per cent of those surveyed said they would like pubs to stay open until midnight.

For the full results of the survey click here.

Reaction - trade associations

  • Tony Payne, chief executive of the Federation of the Licensed Victuallers' Associations, said:​ "For the many people who have invested heavily, to have been told that they couldn't take advantage of the thousands of pounds spent would have been a big disappointment. The Conservatives had the opportunity to object when the bill was going through. To block it now, when people have made plans, would have been wrong."

Nick Bish, chief executive of the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers, said:​ "It was an opportunistic attempt by the Tories to delay the Act, but I never believed it would happen. Everybody knows it would have been horrendous if it had."

A spokesman for the British Beer & Pub Association said:​ "It's been extremely complex to process all the applications in time. Having it delayed at the last minute would have been very unhelpful. Pubs would have faced a great deal of uncertainty over the Christmas period. It's great that it has been resolved."

Related topics Licensing law

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