You can party like it's 1999

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The Independent Online
BRITAIN'S MILLENNIUM celebrations are set to turn into a 36-hour drinking marathon under Government plans to allow pubs to stay open all night on New Year's Eve.

The Home Office announced it wanted to relax the drinking laws for 140,000 licensed pubs, clubs and restaurants across the nation. The plans, which could save the drinks industry pounds 28m a year in slashed red tape, will allow landlords to stay open from 11am on December 31 until 11pm on January 1. They would remain in force for every New Year's Eve thereafter. The Government's preferred option is to allow the all-night relaxation, but it has also offered an alternative of a 4am closing time on New Year's morning.

Pubs and other licensed premises now have to apply to local magistrates if they want an extension to their liquor licence, a procedure that the industry believes is overly bureaucratic and costly.

If public reaction to the plans is favourable, the changes will be enacted through a Deregulation Order early next year. Off-licences will not be affected.

The regulations will include a system of restriction orders which would allow the courts to impose earlier closing times on individual premises following an application from a resident or the police. The Deregulation Order will also leave unaffected local councils' powers to award entertainment licences, one of the key means of preventing rowdy celebrations.

Robert Gordon Clark, the deputy chief executive of London First, the umbrella body for London businesses, said that the move was welcome but long-overdue.

The consultation period on the proposals will end on 12 December.