150,000 licensed premises risk being closed

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The Independent Online

Thousands of pubs, restaurants and off-licences are risking being put out of business by failing to renew their licences in time for new laws governing the sale of alcohol.

With only five weeks to go before the deadline for licence renewal applications under the new Licensing Act, the latest figures show only 24 per cent of the UK's 200,000 licensed outlets have sent in their forms to the relevant authorities. Government ministers, local councils and industry trade bodies are concerned that huge numbers of licensees are at risk of trading illegally.

The low number of applications is leading to fears that councils will grind to a halt under the weight of a last-minute rush of forms in the final days before the 6 August deadline.

Under the Licensing Act, which permits round-the-clock drinking, premises selling alcohol must apply for a new licence even if they do not want to change their opening hours or alter anything about their business. If existing licence-holders have not submitted their application by 6 August, they will lose the right to have their licence automatically renewed and will have to apply again from scratch. If they have nothing submitted by November, they will be trading illegally.

All premises selling alcohol are having to spend as much as £1,300 for a new licence, compared with previous fees of about £200. Owners have to submit 200 forms to eight authorities. They also have to submit architect's plans of their premises, which for hotels means every bedroom if they have room service.