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Local authority (LA) solicitors had to work late nights over the weekend, with some even cancelling holidays, as thousands of pubs, shops and venues deluged them with last-minute licence applications under new legislation.
The Government estimated that some 70 per cent of applications would make the 6 August deadline for new-style licence applications under the Licensing Act 2003 - but with 48 hours to go, local authority solicitors told The Lawyer that it was closer to 50 per cent, while some local authorities had received only 20 per cent of forms.
Many councils opened their doors over the weekend to advise applicants, and Manchester City Council remained open until midnight on Saturday (6 August), to accept last-minute hand-delivered applications.
If applicants miss the deadline they could lose their automatic right to a licence renewal, and may lose the right to trade for a period from 24 November, when the new system comes into force.
Council and private practice solicitors have criticised the Government over the new law, which they say has overwhelmed licencees with red tape and extra costs.
Jeffrey Green Russell partner Julian Skeens said: "It's been quite inhuman the way the Government brought this in."
Errors meant correct guidance notes were not published until June - just two months before the deadline for applications, which have grown from a single-page form to 23 pages.
"The original rationale was to clamp down on yobbos and anti-social behaviour, but it's taking the proverbial sledgehammer to crack the nut," said Kent County Council county solicitor Geoff Wild. "I suspect through the goodwill of most local authorities, applications after the deadline will be allowed to carry on trading."