Fear for pubs as laws are changed

A man drinking a pint of beer.
A man drinking a pint of beer.

DONCASTER’S pubs and clubs could be closed for a fortnight and bosses fined £20,000 if they are caught selling booze to children.

A high profile publican has now voiced concerns over proposed changes in the law which he fears will see pubs forced to close for good if they fall foul of the legislation.

The laws around licensees used to be that if a premises failed a test purchase - when under-age children are sent in to try and buy alcohol - twice then it would be closed down for two days.

However, members of the Doncaster and District Licensed Victuallers’ Association (DLVA) were told at their latest meeting that the Licensing Act 2003 states pubs can face being temporarily shut down for up to a fortnight and have to fork out a maximum of £20,000.

But DLVA chairman Colin Wilmot, who runs Willa Spoons in Thorne, said that if he was hit with such a hefty fine, he could be forced to close the pub.

“I do agree that we have to follow the licensing laws, there’s no doubt about that, but there is such a huge pressure on licensees and one mistake could cost them dearly,” said the 53-year-old who has run the Silver Street pub for the last three years.

“I couldn’t afford to be closed for two weeks let alone get a fine because there’s still the rent to pay and everything else. It’s a harsh punishment but we have to stick to the rules.

“When this came out in the DLVA meeting, a lot of the licensees were shocked and concerned. People weren’t particularly happy, £20,000 is a massive amount to pay.

“It is worrying to have it hanging over your head as a business owner, the pub trade does get hit hard sometimes.

“I’ve already sent all of my staff on a course to ensure they know the laws around challenging minors and what to look out for.”

Mr Wilmot also added that the association would be seeking more advice from the area’s Pubwatch scheme.

A spokesman for South Yorkshire Police added: “South Yorkshire Police works with Doncaster Council and a number of other partner agencies, to enforce licensing laws.

“Prior to any changes to the Licensing Act being announced South Yorkshire Police Licensing Enforcement Officers visit license holders and various Pubwatch meetings to make sure license holders are aware of the changes.

“It has to be noted that the majority of licensed premises are well managed and never come to the adverse attention of the police and in all cases, licensed premises will have the support of the centralised Licensing Department in implementing the Licensing Act.”