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Licensing reviews up 19%

16 August 2011 by
Licensing reviews up 19%

The number of restaurants, bars, pubs and night clubs having their licences reviewed has increased by 19% over the last year, fuelled by police requests. That's the finding from legal information provider Sweet & Maxwell.

A total of 1,334 alcohol licences were reviewed in the last 12 months (to April 1st 2010 - latest statistics available), up from 1,125 licences the previous year.

In 2007, just 675 licences were reviewed, which means that the number of reviews taking place has doubled in five years.

Despite this increase in reviews, the number of licences actually being revoked following a review fell in the year to April 1st 2010 to just 151 - 11% of the total reviewed. During the same period the previous year, 154 of the licences reviewed were revoked - a total of 14%.

Data obtained by Sweet & Maxwell showed that reviews initiated following requests from the police were up 32%, from 610 in 2009 to 804 in 2010. In 2010, complaints from the police were responsible for 60% of reviews, up from 55% the previous year.

A review of a premises' alcohol licence can also be triggered by a complaint from those living or working in near the premises, if they feel that they are adversely affected by the operation of the licence.

The number of expedited, or "fast tracked", reviews requested by the police also increased between 2008-09 and 2009-10 from 75 to 152, a 103% rise. In 2009-10, 19% of expedited reviews were in London and 28% were in the North-west of England.

Expedited reviews can only be requested by the police and are intended to tackle crime and disorder associated with licenced premises. The powers enable the police to trigger a fast-track process to review a premises licence where the police consider that the premises are associated with serious crime or serious disorder.

Following a review, the terms of the licence, such as the opening hours, may be altered or the licence may be revoked entirely.

The number of reviews launched as a result of complaints from local residents also increased slightly - from 110 in 2009 to 117 in 2010. However, complaints from local residents only made up 8% of total reviews in 2010.

The statistics show that of the four options, crime and disorder is the most commonly used grounds for a review - it was cited as a reason 960 times in 2010, 72% of all reviews.

Phil Crier, partner and head of the licensing team at law firm Blake Lapthorn, said: "The police have definitely become more active users of their licensing review powers. It is now common practice for police forces to use these powers particularly when dealing with a busy town centre pub or club.

"Police are under enormous political pressure to deal with the anti-social behaviour and the side effects of binge drinking and they see launching a review as a good way of the concerns being taken seriously.

"Our experience is that the problems the police identify with a premises can normally be sorted out just by talking to the operators of the bar or club and without the need for a licence review. The vast majority of pub and bar operators are more than happy to take on any sensible suggestions from the police."

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By Neil Gerrard

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