The new Licensing Bill is expected to be enacted this month – making it even tougher for forecourts to secure an alcohol licence.

Robert Botkai, partner and head of property and licensing at solicitors Winckworth Sherwood, said retailers have between six and 12 months to apply for a licence under the current system.

“If a retailer is thinking about getting a licence, apply now rather than wait for the new system,” advises Botkai. “If you have a licence granted by the licensing justices, you are more or less guaranteed to receive the new premises licence from the new Licensing Authority.”

The main provisions of the new Bill are that all businesses that sell alcohol to the public will need a new form of premises licence. And each premises licence will need to name a designated person – a premises supervisor – who will be responsible for alcohol sales.

Meanwhile, despite the fact that licensing on forecourts hangs in the balance until the new system is a known quantity, shopper research company Harris International Marketing predicts there’ll be 4,000 alcohol licences held by forecourt retailers by 2005.