Birmingham could become a "bootleg city" swamped by illegal drinking dens following the chaotic implementation of the Licensing Act, it has been claimed.
City councillors warned that hundreds of pubs, bars and clubs face going out of business by Christmas because managers have failed to apply for licences under the new legislation.
With a cut-off date of August 6 for applicants to be certain of having their liquor licence transferred under the new Act, only 12 per cent of premises in Birmingham have submitted the necessary paperwork.
Lawyers have warned that, given the length and complexity of the licensing paperwork, applicants risk waiting months to receive approval if forms are sent to the council after the end of August.
The Government has decided that the terms of the Act will come into force on November 24, opening up the possibility that thousands of Brummies will face a dry Christmas.
The council last night voted to ask the Government to extend the deadline for licensed premises to register.
Bruce Lines, vice-chairman of the licensing committee, said applications had been received from only 400 out of the city's 2,500 drinking establishments.
Most publicans and club owners could not understand the complicated paperwork that they were obliged to fill out and as a result were not bothering to make an application, he said.
Coun Lines (Con Bartley Green) added: "What will Christmas in Birmingham be like if the deadline is not extended? People will be on a diet of cola."
The prospect of so many bars and clubs closing down would have a serious impact on the city economy and would also lead to illegal drinking venues opening," he claimed.
Failure to extend the deadline would result in severe repercussions for licensed premises, the council and for the police who would be expected to keep the streets safe, Coun Lines claimed.
"We run a real risk that most of our licensed premises will cease to function after November 24.
"Do we really want to create a bootleg Birmingham?"
Coun Nigel Dawkins (Con Bournville) accused the Government of heavy-handedness and of forcing through the new licensing system against an unrealistic timetable. It was a totally bureaucratic and complicated process.
"Decent well-run businesses are being threatened with closure because of poorly drafted legislation. There should have been a 12 to 18 month period to allow a controlled transfer," he added.