The Government has refused to call time on extended opening hours in England and Wales but has vowed to come down hard on those flaunting the alcohol laws, following a long-awaited review.
A joint investigation into the impact of the Licensing Act, which came into force on 24 November 2005, by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and the Home Office has concluded there is no need to reverse the decision to extended opening times.
The report found average opening time had extended just 21 minutes with only 4% (5,100) of England and Wales's 162,000 licence holders able to open around the clock.
Andy Burnham, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, said: "People are using the freedoms but people are not sufficiently using the considerable powers granted by the Act to tackle problems, and that there is a need to rebalance action towards enforcement and crack down on irresponsible behaviour."
As a result, those charged with persistently selling alcohol to a person under 18 will face losing their licence if caught twice in three months, not the current three in three (under a new yellow card/red card system).
The Government will also look to make it easier to review problem premises, while tougher sanctions will be sought for those who breach conditions.
Police and local authorities will also identify problem hotspots to licensing authorities so they can set conditions when issuing licences.
Paul Smith, executive director of nightclub trade body Noctis, said that a constructive partnership between the trade, police and local authorities was needed to minimise alcohol related crime and disorder.
"If we are to tackle complex issues and ingrained behaviours around alcohol misuse it has to be by working together as equal partners."
By Christopher Walton
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