Brewers and leisure industry seek reform of licensing laws

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The Independent Online
THE BREWING and leisure industries are putting pressure on the Government to overhaul radically the liquor licensing laws, many of which were laid down on the statute books during the First World War.

In particular, nightclub owners want to see an end to a system that prevents the sale of alcohol after 10.30pm on a Sunday. And pub owners want to follow in the footsteps of the Scots in allowing children on to their premises, with a watershed hour of 9pm. Even the police favour 'children's certificates', and have suggested an acceptable watershed of 9.30pm.

The pressure for reform is being applied though the Brewers' Society, the industry trade body, and Business in Sport and Leisure, the voice for dozens of quoted companies.

John Brackenbury, chairman of Business in Sport, said: 'Our reforms would correct the anomalies which constantly plague operators in the leisure industry. If the Government is really committed to deregulation and the lessening of burdens on business, then it should listen to industry and act upon its concerns.'

He added: 'Not only will our reforms lower the costs both for the courts and licence applicant, but they will offer a licensing system that is in tune with the needs and lifestyles of people in the 1990s.'

Both the Brewers' Society and Business in Sport have submitted comprehensive packages of reforms they would like to see in response to the recent Home Office Consultation Paper. All submissions have to be tendered by the end of the month.

Nightclub operators are keen to have reform of Special Hours Certificates, currently granted only once a venue has been built. That means building takes place without the guarantee that the nightclub will be able to sell alcohol after the 11pm cut-off time enforced on pubs. They also want the abolition of a law that prevents the sale of tickets for public entertainment on a Sunday, restricting admission to nightclubs on a members-only basis.

That law is already brought into disrepute virtually every Sunday at cricket and football grounds, which can circumnavigate the legislation by linking admission to the purchase of a programme rather than a ticket.

Pub operators, in turn, want a further overhaul of opening hours, allowing publicans to trade for an hour longer on Friday and Saturday and between 3pm and 7pm on a Sunday.

The Brewers' Society said: 'Past extensions of opening hours, whether in England, Wales or Scotland, have confounded the prophets of doom. It is overwhelmingly clear that additional opening hours have promoted responsible drinking and have led to none of the adverse consequences predicted.'

The society also accepts proposals put forward by Kenneth Clarke when he was Home Secretary for cafe licences on condition there is fair competition with pubs.

Pub operators also want a system of dual licensing, one for the person and one for the premises, enabling landlords to operate anywhere in the UK without having to return to court for a fresh licence.