Pubs across England and Wales are still uncertain whether the new alcohol licensing laws, which come into force today, will be a boon or a bane to the sector.
Mitchells & Butlers (M&B), which has put the cost of transition for its 2,000-plus restaurants and pubs at £3m to £4m, has played down claims it will enjoy an earnings bonanza.
A report by investment bank Goldman Sachs forecast longer opening would boost sales by 10% across the Mitchells & Butlers estate, but operators aren't sure whether additional drinking time will offset increased costs, such as staffing.
M&B's director of pubic affairs Simon Ward believes a future review of licence fees and guidance, combined with a Government keen to answer its critics, could see pub operators end up as losers.
"In the main the extensions we have asked for have been moderate - between seven and nine hours a week," Ward said.
Greene King marketing director Adam Collett said: "We don't know if pubs will grab some of the revenue from nightclubs or if people will simply come out later.
"Hopefully it is customers who will benefit, as they will no longer need to leave their local to head into town to keep drinking."
Meanwhile, the Government last week (18 November) launched its social responsibility standards, which have been signed by 16 off and on-trade associations to promote best practice, in an effort to fend off criticism about the new licensing laws.
Rob Hayward, chief executive of the British Beer & Pub Association, said: "We recognise we have a role in addressing alcohol misuse. We now have a code which provides a framework on social responsibility for us all to work together."
At the start of the new regime
- 1,000 businesses have yet to receive the necessary licensing paperwork.
- The British Hospitality Association recommends members without the paperwork display a notice stating that they have yet to receive it.
- Only 240 pubs have applied for 24-hour licences.
By Chris Druce
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