Slump in leisure spending leads to a surge in 24-hour licence applications

HARD-pressed pubs and bars hit by the slump in leisure spending are turning to 24 hour licences in an effort to maintain sales.

According to legal information provider Sweet & Maxwell, the number of 24-hour alcohol licences for pubs, bars and nightclubs jumped 12 per cent to 946 this year from 845 the year before.

The 2005 changes to licensing laws have led to a radical shake up in the after hours drinking market. But the smoking ban and recession-related consumer spending slowdown have prompted more pubs and bars to seek longer opening hours.

Pubs also face increased competition from supermarkets selling discount drinks, often with longer opening hours. Sweet & Maxwell found the number of stores with 24 hour licences increased by seven per cent to 1,659 this year.

Licences for traditional late-night drinking venues like nightclubs have not seen the same rate of growth for alcohol licences. This comes as admissions to UK nightclubs fell 7 per cent to 169m in 2009 from 182m in 2005, when the licensing laws were changed. Many drinkers who previously were forced to visit a nightclub now prefer to go to a late-opening pub or buy alcohol from a late-licence supermarket for consumption at home.

The report also found licences for non-profit clubs, like local football and rugby clubs, has declined by 2 per cent to 17,000 this year. This could be because many have been forced to cut costs because their income has fallen due to recession.