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Wednesday, August 25, 1999 Published at 09:46 GMT 10:46 UK


UK

Appeal to reform drink laws

How refreshing: Rigid licensing laws could be ditched

Pub, club and hotel bosses have united to call for longer opening times.


The BBC's Valeris Jones reports: "There are too many people spilling out into the street at the same time"
The call follows a report last year by the government's task force on opening hours in which chairman Lord Haskins said he saw no reason why pubs in city centre areas should not be open 24 hours.

But drinkers hoping for round-the-clock boozing may be disappointed by the recommendations from the industry.


Director of the Institute of Inn Keeping Mary Curnock-Cook: "These proposals are to update the laws from 1964"
Instead, it is calling for a "more modern and flexible" system to making rigid opening times "a thing of the past".

And it wants to be seen to be acting responsibly by taking into account the views of residents who live near licensed premises.

Extension objections

Industry chiefs propose that licensees be granted a personal licence, which could be held for life, allowing the holder to operate on any premises which would be licensed separately for the sale of alcohol.


[ image: Last orders: Pub bosses have called time on current opening times]
Last orders: Pub bosses have called time on current opening times
This split system would be policed by a newly-created authority, which would hear any objections from local residents or any other problems with allowing a venue to extend its opening hours.

The industry hopes its ideas will be included in government consultation papers on licensing law reform due to be published early next year.

Martin Rawlings, director of the Brewers and Licensed Retailers Association - one of the seven groups behind the new plans - is pleased the industry can now present a united front on the matter.

'Radical look'

He said: "What we set out to do, and I hope will achieve, is to modernise the current system which has been in use for about 100 years.

"We have had a system that has not worked very well. Our proposals will raise the professionalism of the industry and allow good operators to operate well.

"We are quite confident that it is an effective framework and does meet a lot of the government's own agenda.

"We do want a radical look at it rather than just a tinkering around the edges."

'Good for Britain'

John Grogan, Labour MP for Selby, North Yorkshire, chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Panel on Liquor Licensing Reform, welcomed the industry's proposals.

He said: "At the moment you have to have a reason to stay open late, which usually means more entertainment, therefore more noise and that's ludicrous."

A spokesman for the Local Government Association said: "Many of our cities like Manchester and Leeds want to become 24-hour cities like their European counterparts of Barcelona, Madrid and Amsterdam, and this can only be good for Britain as a whole."

Nuisance fears

Alcohol Concern's director Eric Appleby urged the government to approach the issue of relaxing licensing laws with caution.

He said: "Neither we, the government nor the industry know the precise impact of the longer opening hours - and that is why it is essential to carry out pilot studies across the country to evaluate the likely effect on alcohol-related crime, disorder and nuisance.

"This is particularly important given that it would be difficult to withdraw any new measures once they had been introduced.

"Staggering opening hours in a particular area might simply encourage more people to binge drink - and there is also a spin-off impact for public transport, which is thin on the ground at the best of times."





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