About 40 pubs in Norwich have had their requests to extend opening hours refused on a technicality following a council cock-up.
Despite applying well before the 6 August conversion deadline, the unlucky publicans
have fallen foul of a rule demanding objections and subsequent hearings are completed within two months.
Norwich's licensing team's gaffe was to count the start of this period from the point where the applications were read through, rather than when they arrived at the licensing office.
As a result, when the council's licensing sub-committee went to review the cases it said the time-limit had been breached and the applications had to be thrown out.
As a consequence publicans will keep their existing hours but won't benefit from longer opening hours, despite spending considerable time, effort and expense on their applications.
Norwich solicitor Alan Kefford of Howes Percival sympathised with the council and said the real fault lay with the Government's naivety on setting the limit at two months in the first place.
Kefford added: "I believe Norwich City Council received 150 applications in the final two days [until the conversion deadline]. They now have to process all these, plus those that they had already received within the two-month time frame, which is nigh on impossible."
The affected publicans can now take their rejected applications to an appeal at the local magistrate's court if they wish.
Buy this week's Caterer magazine for more industry news and analysis