The second part of the controversial mandatory alcohol retailing code is set to be scrapped — but the pay-off will be the new late-night levy, the Morning Advertiser understands.
The next part of the code, to come into force on 1 October, requires pubs to offer drinks in smaller servings and ask anyone who appears underage for ID.
The coalition Government is understood to view the code as an easy win for its "one in, one out" approach to regulations.
And it has asked the trade for its views on the necessity of the code as part of its consultation on the Licensing Act review.
The scrapping of the code could save the on and off-trades an estimated £41.3m (£650 per pub). A source close to the process said: "There is a strong hint that the second part of the mandatory code will go."
Trade bodies have been lobbying the Reducing Regulation Committee, chaired by Business Secretary Vince Cable, arguing there is little point in introducing the second half of the code because most customers choose a 175ml glass for wine and most venues already have an age verification policy.
"The BII has spent the past two months focusing on persuading the regulation executive and the Home Office that the mandatory code is the right one not to implement," said BII (British Institute of Innkeeping) chief executive Neil Robertson.
Robertson said the idea had received a "positive" response. "You can tell the idea has mileage," he said. "There is a chance it won't happen." But he added: "It is not inconceivable the remainder of the mandatory code will be out, but the late-night levy will be in."
The British Beer and Pub Association welcomed the news on the mandatory code and stressed it provided a real opportunity to re-consider how best to tackle promotions.
"We do however want to keep a ban on irresponsible promotions, as we believe that is important in tackling the few rogue traders who can all too easily tarnish the reputation of the industry," said chief executive Brigid Simmonds.
"Perhaps this is an opportunity to re-think how best promotions could be tacked right across the retail sector. Any proposed trade-off between the Mandatory Code and proposals for new regulations in the licensing consultation will need careful consideration to ensure they do not add additional regulation and costs to the running of a pub."
Late night levy
While the pay-off may not be viewed as a great result for the trade, it is believed the Government is determined to press ahead with some form of change to late-night licensing.
Suggested closing times, after which the levy would apply, have varied from anywhere between 10pm and 1am, with fees collected by local authorities.
Paul Smith, executive director of Noctis, said he felt the Government was "committed" to the levy. "It will be very tempting for local authorities to extract as much money as possible to fill the massive hole in their budget," he warned.
The levy is due to be discussed at five Home Office workshops in August, which hosts can apply to attend, on plans to reform licensing. Banning below-cost sales and giving councils and police extra powers are also on the agenda.
It's part of the Government's fast-track review of the Licensing Act, set to report in September. The workshops are at the Sanctuary Buildings, Westminster, London (2 August), the Government Office for the North-East, Newcastle-upon-Tyne (9 August), Blackpool Football Club (13 August), the Government Office for the West Midlands, Birmingham (17 August) and Park Inn, Cardiff (19 August).
Two two and a half hour sessions will take place each day and attendance is limited to 50 people each.
Government officials will make presentations on the different policies, which will be followed by round-table discussions.
The British Beer & Pub Association's (BBPA) northern secretary Lee Le Clercq urged hosts to attend — as the police and health lobby will "be there in their droves".
Email firstname.lastname@example.org to reserve a place.