Pub companies are refusing to be rushed into submitting licence applications, even though the new Licensing Act will become law in England and Wales in only nine months' time.
Licence submissions stalled last week after the Government's decision to withhold official forms until days before the 7 February application start date. But since then few licensees have submitted new applications.
Clive Watson, director at the 14-strong Capital Pub Company, is busy selecting a solicitor to handle licence applications. "My biggest concern is that the process won't be cheap. With a hike in administration costs already, you have to ask how many times the Government can squeeze the cost of a pint?."
Mitchells & Butlers, which has more than 2,000 pubs and restaurants, is handling licensing applications itself. Many of its pubs hope to extend their opening hours slightly at weekends and submissions will start within the next few weeks.
JD Wetherspoon, operator of 650 pubs, is handling its licence applications internally and will start applying within the next month.
Fuller, Smith & Turner has chosen solicitors Poppleston Allen to apply for licences for its 240-strong estate.
We can't keep passing increases on to our customers
Source: Caterer & Hotelkeeper magazine, 17 February 2005