Government u-turn on pub closing times

By James Wallin

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Advice Guidance

The Home Office has told councils they can consider staggered opening hours
The Home Office has told councils they can consider staggered opening hours
New Government guidance has told councils they can consider zoning and staggering closing times, despite expressly advising against the policies 10 years earlier

The Home Office issued its latest guidance under Section 182 of the Licensing Act 2003 last week.

It advises local authorities that they “may also wish to consider the use of alternative measures such as fixed closing times, staggered closing times and zoning within their areas, providing such mechanisms are justified on the basis of the licensing objectives and are only presumptive, with final decisions continuing to be made in relation to individual premises on a case-by-case basis in accordance with what is appropriate to promote the licensing objectives”.

This contrasts with the advice issued in 2004 which said: “Experience in Scotland (five zones were created in Edinburgh for 18 months in the early ’90s) has demonstrated that zoning leads to the significant movement of people across boundaries in search of premises opening later and puts greater pressure on town and city centres than is necessary.”

The 2004 guidance goes on to say: “Licensing areas should not set predetermined closing times for particular areas.”

Andy Grimsey, of licensing law firm Poppleston Allen, said the latest guidance seemed to represent a “complete volte-face in the last 10 years”.

Dispersal problems

He said: “One of the strongest arguments in the successful opposition to EMROs was that imposing a strict universal cut off time for alcohol would lead to dispersal problems or bottle-necks. Certain areas of towns seem to have later hours but this has been a natural process typical of many high streets.”

A Home Office spokeswoman said the Government’s position had changed after a 2010 consultation that showed support for zoning and staggered closing times.

The latest guidance stresses that councils would be expected to justify any move towards zoning or staggered hours.

Kate Nicholls, chief executive of the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers, said the new guidance may actually help the late-night sector as “it clarifies they need evidence before acting and also that such a policy cannot be absolute”.

As reported in the PMA​ last month, the new guidance also includes increased emphasis on the use of health data in relation to existing licensing conditions and to show evidence of harm to underage drinkers.

Related topics Legislation

Related news

Show more