Red tape and residents persuade pubs to shun 24-hour licenses

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The Independent Online

No pub, bar or club has applied to stay open for 24 hours despite a new law that will enable them to serve alcohol round the clock.

No pub, bar or club has applied to stay open for 24 hours despite a new law that will enable them to serve alcohol round the clock.

Fears that the recently passed Licensing Act would lead to hundreds of town centre pubs demanding the right to admit customers all day and all night appear to have been misplaced. Only a handful of licensed premises in England and Wales have applied to extend their opening hours, most for just a few hours.

The new law was passed earlier this year, amid claims from some quarters that it would increase binge-drinking and anti-social behaviour.

Ministers say the reforms are designed to reduce the problems associated with drinking by staggering the time at which pubs and clubs can close.

Owners have until 6 August to apply for an extended licence and the changes come into force in November.

In the two months since applications were called for, Westminster Council, which covers the West End of London, has received just six applications for late licences, all applying to stay open until around 3am on a few nights a month.

Liverpool and Manchester councils have received no applications for extended licences.

Industry sources said many pubs were delaying applications because of the red tape involved and fears that local residents, who will be given a "powerful voice" along with the police in the licence-granting process, would object.

Mark Hastings of the British Beer and Pub Association said: "When the hype first started around 24-hour opening, we said at the time not a single pub would open for 24 hours and that is proving to be the case and will continue to be the case."

Mr Hastings said the pace of applications would pick up but pubs were only interested in staying open a couple of hours later on Fridays and Saturdays.

David Elgie, landlord of the Percy Arms pub in Tynemouth, north Tyneside, has applied to extend his licence for an hour beyond the current closing time of 11pm.

"If there are people in the pub having a drink then I am not going to chuck them out," he said. "But to open 24 hours a day is utterly ludicrous because of staffing costs and the rest. The pub is in a residential area and I have got to think of the neighbours. The last thing I want to do is upset them."

Leading article, page 36

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