Brewer Daniel Thwaites has won a benchmark legal ruling which could severely limit the ability of local residents to oppose extended pub opening hours.
Thwaites this week won a High Court battle to overturn a cut in hours imposed by magistrates at one of its pubs on the Wirral.
The company successfully sought a judicial review of the decision by magistrates to back a local residents' association appeal against extended opening at the Saughall Hotel, Saughall Massie.
The High Court ruled, however, that the magistrates had no basis for reaching their decision because there was no evidence the extra hours had caused any problems in the village.
The case is being viewed as a landmark ruling on the influence of residents' objections to extra trading hours that do not conflict with the four licensing objectives in the new Licensing Act.
Mrs Justice Black agreed that the justices had no basis for reaching their decision to cut the hours. She said that they had admitted to the court they had let their own views override the evidence.
The police had withdrawn their objections before the case went before the magistrates because they said no trouble had emanated from the hotel. The judge was also critical of claims by the residents that different opening hours of pubs would lead to "migration" — encouraging drinkers to move to premises where extra hours operated.
The Wirral bench had upheld objections to the new hours at the Saughall Hotel and had ruled weekend opening should be cut from 1am to 12 midnight.
Morning Advertiser legal editor Peter Coulson said the decision sent a good signal to magistrates and licensing committees on how they should view guidance on hours and the promotion of the licensing objectives.
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