An application procedure that is “mind-bogglingly bureaucratic” could lead to many retailers not being properly licensed to sell alcohol when the new regime comes into force in November, while some may decide not to sell booze at all, the British Retail Consortium has warned.
Speaking as the industry awaited details of the amended fee structure for licences, expected to be announced after The Grocer went to press, BRC head of technical services Kevin Swoffer said retailers would be overwhelmed by the sheer volume of paperwork the procedure generated, while local authorities were woefully ill-equipped to process them
before the August deadline. He added: “Large companies such as Tesco have had to hire in dedicated people simply to project-manage the enterprise, with a whole team of people working under them. It’s one 14-page form for every single store in your estate, which has to be submitted with detailed plans, and then copied to 10 different organisations, from police to planners to environmental health.
“Retailers will also have to customise their application forms for every single store with details of staff and other matters to reflect local policy in each local area. Multiply that by more than 1,000 stores, and it’s a complete nightmare.”
Large retailers that sold small amounts of booze on a seasonal basis could well think twice about selling it, he said.
“It is also a big question for smaller stores that have a high rateable value and so are in a high fee band, but do not sell a lot of alcohol. The cost and the hassle are disproportionate. Many will ask themselves whether it is profitable?”
Many retailers did not realise they must still apply for a licence this year even if they had recently renewed their old ones, said Jane Walker at legal firm Blake Lapthorn Linnell.
“Retailers are supposed to start applying for licences, or renewing old ones, from February 7 and only have until August. Yet many retailers we talked to thought they didn’t have to reapply.”
Still more had not received any information from local authorities about the new regime or what the local approach to awarding licences would be, she claimed.
>>p37 Licensed to bewilder
Elaine Watson