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News - 22 January 2005
A question often asked late on Saturday night

New enforcement measures confuse 24 hour drinking message

A package of measures to accompany the introduction of 24 hour drinking in November would seem to send a confusing message about the wisdom of the entire policy.

Included will be a scheme to ban persistent troublemakers after they have been involved in antisocial behaviour three times. How this will work in practice is not clear but it may follow the principles of the Business Forum’s Business Crime Reduction Partnership (BCRP) exclusion notice. After consultation with the police, persistent offenders are issued with a notice excluding them from all the premises belonging to BCRP members. Many nightclubs and bars are already involved in the scheme through the “nightsafe project” and police photos of excluded individuals are circulated to all members.

The police and local authority will also have the power to declare certain areas “alcohol disorder zones” and publicans will be given eight weeks to deal with the problems of disorder or they will have to pay for the costs of extra policing and possibly hospital treatment of victims and offenders. This may well prove very difficult to put into effect in areas where well run bars are mixed with badly managed ones although the new measures will also accommodate a 24 hour closure notice for the latter.

Another element concerns the suspension of a licence. At the moment a licence can only be suspended before the end of the term under exceptional circumstances but the new provisions suggest that it could be reviewed at any stage during the term. Furthermore, while currently only the police can invoke a review of a licence, under the new proposals residents will be empowered to initiate a review which gives residents associations a power they have previously not enjoyed.

Perhaps most controversial of all the cost of an alcohol license will increase to just under £2000 from a current rate of £10. This reflects the extra work that will be involved in issuing licenses when Council’s assume the responsibility later in the spring. Ironically the government did not introduce legislation to control happy hours and “drink-as-much-as-you-like” promotions, which would probably have been broadly welcomed by the industry because they lose money but are necessary to maintain market share. They are also responsible for much of the disorder on the high street at weekends.

The measures are designed to take some of the sting out of growing criticism from interested parties that the relaxation of drinking laws will lead to an increase in anti-social behaviour. But some commentators are already saying that these new reforms, far from offering solace, are an indication that the government has realised that they may lead to even greater trouble on the late-night high street. The proposed measures are open to consultation until 28th February but not all of them will be in place by November because they will require primary legislation.

For full details of the proposals click on the link below: -

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