JD Wetherspoon faces fight in reducing pub's hours to avoid late-night levy

By Ellie Bothwell contact

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Late-night levy, Police, Public house

A levy will begin in Nottingham on 1 November, for premises licensed to sell alcohol between 00:01 and 6am
A levy will begin in Nottingham on 1 November, for premises licensed to sell alcohol between 00:01 and 6am
Nottinghamshire Police has objected to an application from JD Wetherspoon (JDW) to reduce one of its pub’s hours to avoid paying a late-night levy, on the grounds of “crime and disorder, public safety and the prevention of public nuisance”.

The pubco applied to vary the licence of the Company Inn in Castle Wharf, Nottingham, in August, to remove authorisation to sell alcohol during the period the levy applies for as long as the fee is enforced. It means the pub’s current licence, authorising the sale of alcohol until 2am, would be reinstated if the levy is withdrawn.

In July, the c950-strong pubco pledged to vary the licences of its pubs hit by the measure in this way as part of a company policy in protest at the legislation.

But JDW faces a licensing hearing in Nottingham tomorrow (2 October) after local police objected to the application.

Nottinghamshire Police said it objected “on the grounds of crime and disorder, public safety and prevention of public nuisance”, but refused to comment further.

A levy will begin in Nottingham on 1 November, for premises licensed to sell alcohol between 00:01 and 6am.

'Unfounded'

Poppleston Allen solicitor Andy Grimsey said: “Some authorities fear that if operators only temporarily reduce their hours while the levy is in place, and the levy is withdrawn at a later date, these operators will trade later hours again overnight.

“That may be the case, but it has no relevance to this application at hand, which is to reduce later hours for the sale of alcohol now — something one would imagine every police officer in the country should be rubbing their hands with glee about.

“To object to an application now on the basis of a speculative fear of future uncertainty is unfounded.”

Speaking at the British Beer & Pub Association’s Key Issues Forum in Staffordshire last week, licensing solicitor John Gaunt said JDW’s policy to only reduce its hours as long as a levy is in place is “quite clever” and warned publicans of problems if they vary hours unconditionally.

He said: “If you give up your hours and there is a cumulative impact policy or one is put in place, then the levy goes and you want to reinstate the hours, you may have to confront this policy.”

While the probability of a levy being removed is “very slim”, operators “should be seeking to protect their position as much as they can”, he said.

JDW declined to comment ahead of the hearing.

Related topics: Licensing law, Health & safety

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5 comments

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Agreed Kevin

Posted by RFM,

It is indeed about money, and the polices share (75%) doesn't even have to be spent on Night time policing.

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In bygone times

Posted by Kevin O'Connor,

When there more and busier pubs we all closed at the same time. This seemed to work OK.
Think this is just about the money.

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Staggered closing times

Posted by david,

When an initial or variation to a Premises Licence is applied for, it is assessed by whether a grant might adversely impact on the Licensing Objectives.

The flexibility of terminal hours was in part to help avoid 'pinch points' and possible disorder in respect of taxi queues, late night fast food outlets etc. Although it might seem bizarre, an earlier terminal hour might create pinch points if, for example, a high concentration of outlets close at a similar time.

That might be a reason behind Nottinghamshire police's objection.

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