Well, it's now over a year since the largest shake up in the licensing laws of
the land in a 100 years took place. The smoking ban has also been
introduced. The big question is, has it all worked?
Mr Brown was full of predictions of gloom and doom about the balance of
power appearing to move from trustworthy magistrates to possibly
questionable councillors. His fears were unfounded as the only people who
can object to the granting of a licence are the police, and it is the council
workers and not the elected members who process applications. My
dealings with Cambridge City, East Cambs and South Cambs have all been
very painless - apart from the fact that an occasional license (now called a
TEN) now costs more than twice as much as it did two years ago.
The predictions of mass binge drinking that would follow the possibility of 24
hour opening have not materialised, and the situation of pubs having
staggered closing times has possibly helped. A problem has been that if a
publican has asked to be allowed to stay open until, say, 1am, and he
introduces it a while after it was granted, the busybody neighbour who
presumably moved next door to a pub and not the other way round, will often
have the temerity to complain not realizing the publican is well within his
rights. My problem is that I still do not know when certain pubs are open or
The smoking ban caused as much controversy as we all expected. The
smoker will tell you it has been a disaster, and I am sure many who don't
smoke but enjoy the company of a smoker have had many a conversation or
convivial time spoilt by the exit to the garden or smoking area. It was craftily
brought in at summer time so that the warm weather would lessen the
complaints, but the government could not get even that one right with it being
the worst summer on record!
The cleaner air in pubs has to be beneficial to the bar staff who do not have
the choice of a smoky pub. The fall off in trade has not been as dramatic as
expected and my spies north of the border tell me normal trade has resumed.
My only problem is the erosion of freedom of choice. One of the interesting
things about the new laws is that if I, as licence holder, am in a pub that I have
nothing to do with and are present when the publican sells alcohol to a minor,
I too am liable to the £20,000 maximum fine. Is it the same if I am in the pub
when someone lights up? I am concerned about the possibility of zero
alcohol tolerance driving being introduced. It will be the end of the pub as we
know it, and will not stop the problem drinker getting behind the wheel
There is a labyrinth of questions, but by and large I feel it has all worked out
just about OK.