The Government has announced local authorities will soon have the power to impose blanket bans on the sale of alcohol after 3am in areas blighted by alcohol-related anti-social behaviour and disorder.
New rules contained in the Crime and Security Bill currently before Parliament would mean that, where disorder or public nuisance cannot be attributed to specific premises, local authorities could force businesses to close across an entire area.
The ban would operate between 3am and 6am in respect of all premises selling alcohol, including pubs, bars, clubs, supermarkets and convenience stores. It could be imposed all week or only on particular days of the week.
Councils would need to show that the restriction was necessary to prevent crime and disorder or public nuisance, or to promote public safety.
When a council proposes to use its new power, it would first have to invite views from everyone affected, including local residents, the police and licence holders; if necessary, it would also need to hold a public hearing before making a final decision.
Licensing Minister Gerry Sutcliffe had this to say about restricting opening hours:
"The Licensing Act has done a great deal to make it easier for local residents and councils to deal with alcohol-related nuisance and disorder, and the number of 24 hour licences remains low. But we recognise that some concerns still exist about anti-social behaviour, and are determined to give councils the powers they need to act.
"This new power will help local authorities and the police make life better for local residents. It will also help ensure that licensees take their obligation to run responsible businesses more seriously."