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Licensees consider their options for all-night drinking

Published:  23 July, 2008

By James Aufenast

Oliver Peyton plans major changes to his Isola bar and restaurant in Knightsbridge as a result of the likely shift to 24-hour licensing, but late-night opening is likely to be patchy across the UK. The Government announced the results of consultations with private individuals, MPs on behalf of constituents, and various organisations and bodies last week, confirming the suggestion for flexible opening hours with the potential for up to 24-hour opening. However, in practice late opening is likely to have strong local variations, according to one magistrate, particularly as the granting of liquor licensing will pass to local authorities. Large city councils such as Manchester and Leeds are expected to grant licences for later hours in bars, restaurants and clubs. Councillor Elizabeth Minkin at Leeds City Council said: "As we move to a 24-hour lifestyle it makes sense for bars to open in a manner that best suits local circumstances." By contrast, Westminster Council leader Simon Milton commented: "We already have late licensing in many of our city centre premises and our experience shows that late drinking brings its own problems, from litter to crime and public nuisance." According to Peyton the major effect will be that "new bars and restaurants will think of ways to entice drinkers at later hours. There may be a range of sophisticated new bars for people in their 30s." Peyton also told Harpers that he will expand his bar at Isola and add to the 64-strong by-the-glass collection of Italian wines. He also plans to have more extensive opening hours at his new members' club in the City, Loftbury. Other operators were less positive. Sarah Heward, managing director of Corney & Barrow wine bars, said she would not extend hours beyond what was currently in place at the bars. "We have 1am in the City, and 2am in the West End. I wouldn't open beyond those times. My staff have got to have a life as well." Amanda Willmot, director of Yates Group, said: "There is deregulation by stealth already. It is good that it will be a commercial decision rather than a bureaucratic one but we will not change much." Fish! operations director, Paul Gilligan said: "I cannot see that our customers want to hang around much longer than they do at present."