Local councils were inundated with last-minute applications from retailers to renew their alcohol premises licences on the day the deadline expired.
Lacors, the local authority licensing regulator, said councils had bent over backwards to help retailers get their forms in on time.
“There was a flood of forms towards the end of the renewal period,” said a Lacors spokesman. “Councils are finding it difficult to deal with applications quickly.”
Many opened specially last Saturday (August 6), the deadline for renewal applications. Others arranged seminars and press briefings to raise awareness at the 11th hour.
Horsham District Council reported receiving 353 applications for premise licences out of a potential 450 and 531 personal licences out of 1,000 by August 6.
It warned that retailers caught trading without a licence after November 24 were liable for
prosecution and risked a potential fine of up to £20,000.
Lacors said there was “still a significant proportion of the trade who have failed to seek conversion and have therefore lost their existing grandfather trading rights”. It said such retailers would now have to reapply from scratch, with no guarantee of getting licences by the final cut-off point for granting them on November 24.
Meanwhile, the Association of Convenience Stores continued to urge retailers to send in their renewal forms immediately.
It is unknown exactly how many applications remain outstanding for independent retailers in the off-trade.
Lacors was still working on figures as The Grocer went to press. The most recent estimate was by the Federation of Small Businesses, which put the figure at roughly 6,500.
>> p25 Letters: Don’t delay any more