The Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) last week launched its long-awaited draft regulations for the Licensing Act 2003 - but again failed to document fee guidelines.
The draft details how the licensing system will work, including registration procedures and how to apply for licences. It also calls for a consultation process on the new guidelines.
But fees associated with the application procedure remain a mystery, with the DCMS saying details are "expected within the next month".
However, industry representatives said the guidelines are useless without the fee structure.
"The fees are absolutely crucial, as we need to know how much the new system is going to cost the business," said a spokesman for the Laurel Pub Company. "Despite promises from the Government that they would be setting fees soon, they are now going out to consultation, which will create further delay."
Brian Haride, director of leisure and training at Howes Percival Solicitors, concurred: "Without the fees it's difficult for councils to set a workable budget to cover their new licensing duties. It's much like setting prices at a hotel without knowing how many rooms you have."
However, Nick Bish, chief executive of the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers, was confident that final fees would be close to those previously mooted, with "a hike in the second year" to placate local authorities concerned about funding.
Local authorities have until January to finalise their licensing policies and incorporate any changes made under consultation.
Licensing applications under the new regime will start on 7 February 2005.