Ruth Mitchell

Member Article

24-Hour Party People?

With Watson Burton LLP Law FirmMost people are aware of the new licensing legislation under the Licensing Act 2003 which came into force on 24 November 2005. The publicity and hype surrounding the changes gave many the impression that the changes would lead to pubs and nightclubs being open 24 hours a day and potentially seven days a week. The reality of the situation is very different and after the build up and focus on the streets on 24 November, police reported no more incidents than an average night, even fewer in places.Two months on and many people are still unsure as to how these changes work in practice and many have noticed very little change in their locality. Contrary to some impressions given, the changes to licensing legislation do not necessarily mean that all pubs and nightclubs will stay open longer. However, any business selling hot food, serving alcohol or putting on public entertainment after 11pm is now required to obtain a new Premises Licence, even if it has no intention of varying its opening hours.Local authorities process the application and in making their decision consult a variety of people including fire safety officers, environmental health, police, trading standards, social services as well as local residents. Licensees have to support four main objectives:·Â   Prevention of crime and disorder;·Â   Public safety;·Â   Prevention of public nuisance; and·Â   Protection of children from harm.A potentially more effective procedure has also been implemented for objections to a licence. Local residents and other statutory authorities now have the right to apply for the licence to be reviewed on grounds of the above objectives and as such the licence will be reviewed before the licensing committee at a hearing. There is a wide power to modify any of the existing conditions of the licence, exclude a licensable activity, suspend the licence for up to three months or revoke it altogether. It remains to be seen how often this procedure will be used and how effective it will be. Only an estimated 70,000 premises - less than half of the total number of licensed premises - have extended their opening hours, with only 1000 premises (including over 250 supermarkets) applying for 24 hour licences. In the majority of cases, the extension is only for an hour or two and only on weekends. It is also expected that many premises granted extensions to their hours or even a full 24 hour licence, will not make use of their licences on a day to day basis but will have that option open to them.The full implications of the changes are not expected to be realised until they have been in force for at least six months. However, the reality of the effects of the change in legislation has been markedly different from the potential images of non-stop drinking conjured up in the build up to 24 November. The long-term effect is yet to be seen but as Mark Hastings of the British Beer and Pub Association commented at present, “24 hour opening is an urban myth.“If you have any queries in relation to this article, or any other commercial law matter, please contact Clare Banks at Watson Burton LLP (clare.banks@watsonburton.com)

This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by Ruth Mitchell .

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