A Government Minister was criticised yesterday after he called on owners of bars and clubs in Birmingham to make sure they secure new licences to avoid closure
Hundreds of venues could run dry this autumn because owners have failed to send in the forms for the new licences, Licensing Minister James Purnell warned. He was in Birmingham to call on landlords, managers, restaurateurs, off-licences and breweries to ensure they meet the August 6 deadline.
All pubs, clubs, restaurants and places selling hot food after 11pm must apply for the new licences by August 6 or risk closure when they come into force from November.
Under the Licensing Act, landlords and managers must also hold a personal licence, and so far the city council has received just 409 applications.
Mr Purnell warned: " Staying in really will become the new going out unless pubs, bars, off-licences, restaurants and takeaways apply now."
The new act has been heavily criticised by city council licensing members who have had to increase the number of committee meetings from one a week to one a day. The licensing department has also spent £150,000 on employing new officers to deal with the backlog.
Coun David Osbourn, chairman of the licensing committee, criticised the "one-size fits all" policy. He said Birmingham should be given more time to process the applications than smaller local authorities, who have less bars and clubs.
Yesterday, a Birmingham restaurant owner and a solicitor who has dealt with 24 licence applications raised similar concerns over the new legislation.
Sham Uddin, a partner at Birmingham-based Hamstead Law Practice, said: "The Government has only allowed seven months for people to have their applications processed. It is also unfair that the smaller establishments which make less money have to pay the same as the larger venues to process the forms, usually about £1,500."