A Government turnaround is forcing all alcohol licence holders to renew their licences in February under the current system.

Failure of the secondary legislation to be enacted in September has pushed the timetable for reform back to as late as June next year.

The Government initially gave good grace and cancelled the 2004 Brewster Sessions – the Magistrate’s three-yearly licence renewal sessions – but since the delay it has reinstated them despite strong industry opposition.

“Rather than having the Brewster Sessions, the Government agreed for licensees to go straight to the Local Authorities,” explains James Lowman, public affairs manager of the Association of Convenience Stores. “Reinstating them adds another layer of bureaucracy and red tape. It’s very disappointing and doesn’t contribute to any of the Government’s objectives for the new licensing reform.”

Chris Mitchener, general manager of licensing and property agents at solicitors Lockett & Co, agrees the move has no logical standing, and urges retailers to make their renewal applications in good time to avoid a court appearance.

“Providing applications are received before the beginning of February, and providing there are no objections, licence holders are not required to attend court,” says Mitchener.

“But if they forget and miss the date, or if there are objections, they will need to appear in court to renew the licence by April or their licence will lapse.”