Drunks face being barred from all pubs in home area

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Persistent drunks will be banned from all the pubs in their home area, the Government warned yesterday as it sought to quell growing alarm that 24-hour pub opening could encourage binge-drinking.

Persistent drunks will be banned from all the pubs in their home area, the Government warned yesterday as it sought to quell growing alarm that 24-hour pub opening could encourage binge-drinking.

Bars in areas blighted by alcohol-fuelled hooliganism will be given eight weeks to tackle the problem or be ordered to pay towards the extra cost of policing and street cleaning.

And, in a move that angered brewers, pubs and clubs will have to pay up to £1,905 for new drinks licences, a massive increase on the current £10 annual flat fee.

The package, derided by the Tories as "hastily cobbled together", was unveiled less than three weeks before all bars in the country apply for new flexible licences.

Tessa Jowell, the Culture Secretary, conceded yesterday that the problem of binge-drinking - particularly among teenage girls who get "tanked up while putting on their lipstick" - had escalated over the past five years.

In response, the Home Office is proposing to introduce "drinking banning orders", issued to anyone who received three alcohol-related convictions or fines. Under such orders, people would be banned from all licensed premises in the area for a fixed period of probably a month.

Hazel Blears, a Home Office minister, said: "It would be a pretty salutary lesson to people who say they really enjoy going out and having a good time that they can't do that for four weeks."

Spot fines of up to £50 will be introduced for people under 18 who try to buy alcohol and for bar staff who serve customers who are drunk.

Police and trading standards officers may also get new powers to ban premises selling alcohol for up to 48 hours if they persistently serve under-age drinkers. Ministers have stopped short of imposing compulsory levies on pubs, clubs and off-licences in towns and cities afflicted by drunkenness.

Chris Fox, president of the Association of Chief Police Officers, said: "Hopefully, the eight-week warning period gives people a chance to change their behaviour and we won't need to recover costs. This gives a yellow card to those premises."

Under the Licensing Act, all 115,000 pubs, clubs and bars in England and Wales will have to apply for new licences this year. They currently face a fixed annual fee of £10, which will rise under a new scale of charges announced yesterday.

The largest city centre pubs, the "vertical drinking" establishments that can serve thousands of people in a day, would pay an initial application fee of £1,905 followed by an annual fee of £1,050. The smallest bars would pay £100, with a £70 yearly fee thereafter.

Although Ms Blears said offers such as "girls drink free" were a "recipe for mayhem", the Government had decided against banning pub promotions, such as happy hours. Instead it is backing a voluntary industry code of practice to restrict them.

The package follows calls from many senior police officers, as well as opposition parties and several Labour MPs, for licensing deregulation to be halted.

David Davis, the shadow Home Secretary, said: "These hastily cobbled together proposals will not address binge-drinking. They will just tinker with the problem after it has got much worse. Simply making a pub pay a levy after eight weeks will not stop the problem of violence and drunkenness."

Tim Martin, chairman of JD Wetherspoon, warned that the industry faced "extra cost and regulation" because of the "last-minute chaos" of the plans.

Leading article, page 42

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