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< Back to news 03 January, 2009

Independent Hospitality Trade Dismisses Benefits of Extended Licences

As the November start date for new licensing laws in England and Wales grows closer, new research suggests that up to three quarters of independent hospitality businesses in Britain believe that exten
The government hopes that more flexible hours will prevent drinkers spilling out into the streets at the same time and therefore reduce anti-social behaviour. However, it seems that many licensees disagree.

Research carried out by Beacon, the UK’s largest purchasing consortium for the independent hospitality trade, amongst its 2,000-plus members, has revealed startling results. Just 17% of respondents, representing a cross section of hospitality businesses including hotels, pubs, clubs and restaurants, thought it would help the situation, while 9% were still unsure.

Applications for up to 24-hour drinking licences have been available in England and Wales since early February but media reports suggest that the number applying has been much lower than anticipated by the government.

However, over a third of the businesses surveyed by Beacon said that they did intend to apply to extend their opening hours if they hadn’t done so already. Respondents quoted red tape and the cost of staff wages to cover the extra hours as major reasons for the slow uptake.

Karen Packham, Director for Beacon, said: “A lot of our members believe that binge drinking and the problems associated with it are issues which should be dealt with through education rather than extended serving hours.

“There is a great deal of scepticism as to whether the new laws will actually help reduce anti-social behaviour.

“However, there are a significant percentage of businesses that do intend to take advantage of the new flexibility in licensing hours which suggests that it is viewed as an opportunity for establishments to tailor their licensing hours to their particular requirements, mainly for special functions and at weekends.”

Nick Wilde is Director of the Best Western Manor Hotel in Kent, one of Beacon’s members. He said: “Education is the key to addressing binge drinking and tackling the wider yob culture in this country. This is a social issue not a licensing one.”

While David Clark, proprietor of the Thrums Hotel in Scotland, another respondent to the survey, believes that 24-hour drinking would also have further consequences. He commented: “Extended licensing hours will mean more people missing work and ringing in sick because of late-night drinking. It could have a serious financial effect on the economy.”

Mr Wooddisse of Harrison’s café bar and restaurant in Cheshire felt that individuals should be responsible for their own consumption level and behaviour and pointed out that cheap alcohol in supermarkets and shops could also contribute to the problem.

But Anne Hope of the Drove Inn Public House in Cumbia put forward the case in favour of the changes saying: “The flexibility of drinking hours is beneficial for hospitality businesses as every venue’s needs are different – but opening hours should be at the licensee’s discretion.”

Under the Licensing Act 2003, licensees have only until 6 August 2005 to apply for a new personal license, whether they intend to alter their existing hours or not. Operators failing to convert their existing magistrate’s licence by this date will have to re-apply as a new business with no automatic entitlement to retain their current rights.

Respondents to the Beacon survey also gave the thumbs down to the suggested introduction of a wine-style beer glass to encourage more women to drink beer. Only 28% thought the third of a pint glass proposed by the British Beer and Pub Association earlier this year was a good idea.