The sky's the limit for the expansion of Best Bar None (BBN) - but it must not be made compulsory.
That's the message from the people behind the national roll-out of the pub and club accreditation scheme.
The BBN board - made of trade groups, licensees, Government, police and local authority representatives - was formed last year under the aegis of the BII to develop the scheme.
If it becomes mandatory we would all walkJohn McNamaraBBN
BBN chief executive John McNamara (pictured) told the MA that 90 schemes currently operate, with the new BBN website encouraging people to get in touch.
"Sarah [Walker, BBN national project administrator] is getting more and more calls from people who either started or are about to start a scheme," he said.
Asked how many schemes he expected to operate, McNamara said: "The sky's the limit. There should be no finite target.
"We are always on the lookout for other areas that haven't set it up."
The Government's new Youth Alcohol Action Plan calls for voluntary industry schemes on social responsibility to be made mandatory.
But McNamara said this should not be the case for Best Bar None, stressing that it works where licensees help improve standards themselves.
"When we were interviewed last year [by Government] we said 'keep it local' and 'don't make it mandatory'.
"If it becomes mandatory we would all walk."
BBN chairman and pub owner Lord Redesdale said that despite the national support for BBN, the board should "not be dictating the pace".
Individual schemes are encouraged to amend the criteria depending on local circumstances.
"It's about local schemes doing the job locally. It's a bottom-up, rather than a top-down approach."
The amount of paperwork needed to apply for BBN accreditation is falling.
McNamara said application forms used to be four or five pages long but are now shorter, with assessors filling out more sections themselves.
He said some people found the length of forms "daunting", particularly for licensees who have "red tape coming out of their ears".
McNamara said more than 200 assessors have taken the award for BBN assessors, the BIIAB Level 2 Award in Assessment of Licensed Premises.
Meanwhile, McNamara said getting the off-trade involved is "on the long-term agenda".
He said shops and supermarkets have been involved in BBN in two or three areas across the country.
"I suppose the first step is to find out where it works and see what we can learn.
"The same sort of issues and assessment criteria is relevant to both on and off-trades, particularly around underage sales."
There are also plans for a detailed assessment of the impact BBN has on reducing disorder, McNamara revealed.
Scope for rural schemes
BBN chairman Lord Redesdale said his pub has not participated in BBN as it's located in the country.
But he said: "There's no reason why rural schemes wouldn't take off in the future. It's a self-help group for all licensees in any area."
The Liberal Democrat peer owns the Redesdale Arms near Otterburn in Northumbria.
"My own experience of owning a pub is it's a very, very hard environment to work in and it's a very difficult business to get right," he said.
"I talk to a lot of licensees and they find themselves isolated.
"That's the joy of this scheme. You get to talk to your peers and share best practice and your experiences."
Home Office minister Vernon Coaker is lined up to speak at the Best Bar None National Conference.
It takes place on 23 September at Doncaster Racecourse.
Lord Redesdale said: "This isn't a case of just going along to a lecture. This is about learning from your peers and swapping best practice.
"We are looking to have a number of different workshops."
See www.bestbarnone.com for details.