Abolish annual licence renewals, return licensing control to magistrates and deregulate entertainment — these are just some of the major issues the industry has asked the Government to take action on, writes Michelle Perrett. More than 550 responses have been received by the Government to its Red Tape Challenge, which gave members of the hospitality industry the chance to express views on which pieces of red tape should be abolished. Poppleston Allen solicitor Nick Walton expressed concern about the bureaucracy around the licensing regime. In particular, he highlighted the costs of advertising licence applications and the red tape surrounding licence summaries. He said: “It was never intended that the requirement to display a summary should mean that walls have to be papered with the summaries produced by licensing authorities.” One licensee, Anne Strobel, suggested streamlining the process of alcohol licensing. She said: “I object to the cost of the licence; also, why does it need to be renewed annually? Can this process be eliminated in favour of a one-off charge and licences only come under scrutiny where there are issues with the licensee or the behaviour of drinkers if it’s a public nuisance? “The council can eliminate sending out renewals and chasing payment.” Live music in venues was a major issue debated on the Red Tape Challenge website, with calls to scrap the regulations widespread from both the pub trade and musicians’ groups. Tom Pegg, a bar owner in central London, said: “I’m sure a little flexibility and support would encourage more venues to bring back live entertainment and may help curb closures.” Simon Pawson, a pub owner in the north of England, agreed: “Films, music and dancing should be deregulated. I mean, is it such a crime that someone might dance in a pub?” Pub bosses and licensees also called for stronger control over supermarkets, lowering of VAT, relaxation of the smoking ban, as well as fewer health & safety regulations related to food safety. Pub entrepreneur Tony Carson, who was a founder of the Thai pub chain Jim Thompson, said: “Help socially responsible pubs to survive by lowering VAT — even if only on food to give them a lifeline, and increase taxes in the off-trade to narrow the price gap such that people have less incentive to fuel up and are positively persuaded to drink in responsible on-trade premises.” The minister in charge of the challenge, Mark Prisk, has promised to “fight the corner” for the trade and said the Government is committed to cutting red tape. There will be a three-month process where different Government departments will look at the responses and make decisions about the regulations. The presumption is that all burdensome regulations will go unless departments can justify why they are needed.

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