24-hour drinking: ministers shun pubs levy

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Ministers have stopped short of a compulsory up-front levy on pubs and clubs under the new 24-hour licensing plans, it was announced today.

Ministers have stopped short of a compulsory up-front levy on pubs and clubs under the new 24-hour licensing plans, it was announced today.

Instead, disorderly premises will be given an eight-week warning and if licensees fail to clean up their act they will be forced to pay towards policing and other public expenses.

The new rules will apply to premises in areas designated as Alcohol Disorder Zones, where there have been problems with binge-drinking.

Yobs who are handed three on-the-spot fines or convictions for drink-related offences will be banned from pubs and bars in specified areas for a fixed time, under a new Drinking Banning Order, ministers said.

They claimed it would be a tough sanction to encourage individuals to stop binge-drinking.Children who attempt to buy alcohol will also get on the spot fines, as will bar staff who serve drunks.

Home Office Minister Hazel Blears said police and trading standards officers will be given the power to ban premises from selling alcohol for 24 hours where there is evidence they are persistently selling to under 18s.

Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell said: "Our current licensing laws are creaking under the strain."That's why we are reforming them - to make our towns and cities safe for all, not a free for all.

"The steps we are proposing today support the tough measures in the Licensing Act 2003.

"They send out a clear message - we will not tolerate the disorder and anti-social behaviour that blights our towns and city centres."

Under a new licensing structure due to begin next month "megapubs" in town or city centres will pay £2,955 for their initial fee and annual fee.

Opponents of the new rules, including some senior police officers, have warned that 24-hour drinking could lead to more alcohol-fuelled disorder in towns and cities.

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