Pub, bar and restaurant owners in England and Wales have just over six months to prepare their new licence applications, following last week's announcement from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.
Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell said that 7 February would be the "first appointed day" - the start of the nine-month transition period by the end of which local authorities will have taken over licensing duties from magistrates.
"The countdown to the reform of our outdated licensing laws has now begun," said Jowell. It is likely that 7 November will be the "second appointed day", marking the start of the new licensing regime. However, that date has not been confirmed, leaving the Government some room for manoeuvre.
Rob Westwood-Payne, a solicitor at licensing specialists Heatons, said: "If councils don't cope with the number of applications they receive after the first appointed day, it's possible the Government may listen to their cries and move the second appointed day back."
Local authorities will now start drawing up their licensing policies ahead of 7 February. "Now is the time to get in touch with your local council and shape their policy in the way you want," urged Westwood-Payne.
Source: Caterer & Hotelkeeper magazine, 15 July 2004