Leading independent retailers have no plans to extend their licensing hours when 24-hour drinking comes into force later this year, an exclusive new survey by The Grocer reveals.

And one leading chain has even vowed to remove alcohol from shelves following the government’s last-minute hike on the new licensing fees.

Ministers outraged the trade last Friday when it revealed that fees for the new licences, which retailers must have applied for to their local authority by August, would be much higher than previously thought, rising to as much as £900 for a three-year permit.

Now, in a poll of The Grocer’s Top 50 independent retailers, Snax 24, ranked 22, has said it will be withdrawing the sale of booze from at least one of its stores.

None of the independent retailers questioned said they would apply to extend opening hours when 24-hour drinking laws were introduced.

Three quarters opposed the increase in licensing costs and two thirds of retailers thought stores selling alcohol late into the night would see more trouble. Although 75% opposed the idea of financial penalties for failing to control customer behaviour, the remainder thought it would be fair to punish stores which failed to clamp down on, or caused, problems.

The Association of Convenience Stores public affairs and communications manager James Lowman said The Grocer’s findings showed how strongly the trade felt about the licensing issue. Criticising the government’s 11th-hour bid to appease anti-24 hour licensing campaigners, Lowman said the new licensing fees discriminated against shops where alcohol was only a small proportion of turnover.

For the full story read this week’s issue of The Grocer, dated 29 January.