Council to Receive New Alcohol Licensing Powers

Council Chambers at the Old Wesleyan Chapel

The Council is set to receive new powers to fix licensing fees and to restrict pub opening hours under new rules to become law in March.

Councillors at yesterday’s Licensing Committee meeting heard that the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act, which has been passed by the Commons and is making it’s way through the House of Lords, will bring in a number of changes to the way Councils license businesses to sell alcohol.

Restriction orders, which allow the Council to ban the sale of alcohol between 3am and 6am, are likely to be extended to cover midnight to 6am.

Administration Officer, Sue Pritchard said she doesn’t think licensees will lose money if they have to close at midnight, saying that most people go out with a fixed amount of money to spend and will use that within the first few hours.

Sue told members that premises will still be able to apply for extensions, for example over the New Year period but Councillor Fred Ticehurst felt there were so many exceptions that the restriction orders were useless.

The Council will also be able to set fees for licenses and will have new powers to collect those fees when overdue.

Sue said the Council has had a problem with this in the past, with some licensees receiving bills in November, but not paying until June the following year.

The new rules may allow the Council to suspend the license if not paid within 31 days and Councillor Ticehurst said this could mean premises having to close over the busy Christmas and New Year period if they didn’t pay.

Sue’s report also highlighted the new “Late Night Levy” which Councils can impose on businesses to pay for the cost of extra policing or cleaning, although members at the meeting did not discuss this further.

Councillors were keen to consult with license holders before the new rules are introduced.

Sue said she’s already had an initial meeting with licensees but said they were “dismayed” by the new rules.