Time running out for Licensees

Winchester City Council has warned that licensed premises could be forced to close when the new Licensing Act comes into force in November as they have received only a handful of licensing applications since they became responsible for pub, club and restaurant licensing three months ago.

They have now reminded licensees and licence holders that the deadline for applications is 6 August and has urged them to submit their application as soon as possible.

"Existing licences will run out at the beginning of November and if licensees don't hold a licence, they will not be able to operate legally. If they fail to apply in time, they will have to apply for the grant of new Licences with the additional requirements and costs," said the City Council's Licensing Manager John Myall.

In February the Council became the responsible authority for licensing around 500 pubs, hotels, off-licences, restaurants, theatres, cinemas, village halls and even some fast food outlets in the district. They also have to issue over 700 Personal Licences to enable individuals to sell alcohol from those premises.

Although the new licences will not take effect until November the deadline for receipt of applications is 6 August 2005. Any applications received after that date will be invalid and will be returned. The Council have no discretion over this deadline and it cannot be extended.

Those premises who do not want to vary any of their hours or activities can apply for their new licences under "Grandfather Rights" and if they are not changing anything, the licence will be automatically issued.

Mr Myall said that contrary to press coverage, the new Licensing Act does not automatically permit 24-hour drinking for pubs and clubs and so far he had not received one application for a round-the-clock licence.

"Any licensee who wants to extend their hours will have to apply to the Council and must set out in their application the steps they will be taking to deal with problems which might arise. Responsible authorities, such as the police and fire service, local residents and businesses can make representations to the Council in response to applications, and we will then hold a public hearing to consider these representations.

"We will carefully examine all applications to strike a balance between the benefits offered by licensed premises and the interests of local residents who may be affected by them," he added.

Applications to vary existing licences will have to be advertised on the premises, and in a local newspaper. Residents will have 28 days to submit representations to the Council in response to an application.

The application forms, and details of how to apply or make representations, are on the City Council's website, www.winchester.gov.uk or from the Licensing Section at the City Offices, Tel: 01962 848188 or email licensing@winchester.gov.uk