The new alcohol licensing regime will be of scant benefit to independent retailers, with hardly any stores applying for extended trading hours and many facing massive increases in cost, exclusive research for The Grocer shows.
A survey of independents by The Knowledge Store reveals that few plan to sell alcohol outside current permitted hours. Only 5% of independents plan to take advantage of the Licensing Act by selling alcohol later than their current permitted hour of 11pm, and in those cases until 11.30pm; 2% will trade from 7am and 1% from 5.30am.
With four weeks to go until the August 6 deadline, 27% had not sent off applications.
Many retailers reported a big increase in what they will have to pay for the new licence, which includes a one-off payment based on rateable values of £100-£635, a variation fee of £20- £120, an annual charge of £70-£350 and a personal licence fee of £37. Retailers are also having to pay for legal advice, for floor plans for each store to be drawn up and for advertising any variations in their hours. More than half of those questioned said it would cost them at least 100% more under the new regime.
It’s not just independents who have been left frustrated. Tim How, chief executive of the Majestic Wine chain, said none of the stores were changing their trading hours, yet converting to the
new system had cost the business £70,000. He said: “The only thing that may have benefited the off-trade was that the Act would make it a lot easier for companies to transfer staff, but now they have added the need for a premises supervisor, that benefit has gone.”
In an exclusive interview with The Grocer, licensing minister James Purnell said: “Your figures are encouraging because we were concerned about small independent off-licences getting applications in on time.”
He said the end result of the new regime would be less bureaucracy and more flexibility. “It means retailers don’t have to go back year after year to get a licence and can apply for a broader range of permissions and have more flexibility in terms of special events and hot food.”
Claire Hu