This magazine’s research suggests that up to 25% of c-stores didn’t make the August 6 deadline. Frightening figures.

Certainly, as the final date approached, this helpline continued to receive panic queries, what ifs? and general outrage at the unnecessary complexity and cost of it all.

One retailer rang to say that her licensing forms had been rejected because the fire-fighting equipment hadn’t been shown on the plans. This, she added, was because she didn’t have any. Was it a requirement?
Yes – time to invest in an extinguisher.

And another caller, who I’ll also keep anonymous to spare his embarrassment, rang to say that he had just realised that his old licence had run out several months ago. His council had failed to remind him. Where did he stand? On dodgy ground I’m afraid. In the first place, although some councils will remind you, others will be tutting over cutbacks and the price of stamps. They are not obliged to remind you. The retailer concerned will now have to start from scratch.

But how about this for the other side of the coin? Tracey Wager called from her Premier Store at Blackpool to say that her sensible council accepted her son’s application for a personal licence even though the course he had taken was the old, no-longer-recognised one. She got it in writing too.

Less happy was Rosina Ferrara (D&R Ferrara in Wrexham), who did it all by the book but neglected to ask how much the solictor’s fees would be. Oh boy. For 11 calls made and received, three letters received, one hour preparing and drafting of documents and 25 minutes of travelling time: £726. Total licensing cost for switching from old licence to (same) new licence: £1,302.44. Hers is a small newsagents, licensed for the last 25 years, so when she says “it’ll take an awfully long time to recoup this”, she knows whereof she speaks.

For the independent sector this has been the biggest legislative cock-up of the new millennium so far. But it’s here and despite all the serious radio talk of police chiefs’ doubts and afterthoughts, it’s probably not going to go away.

So I must add my warning to those that have appeared on other pages in this magazine. If you missed the deadline, get cracking on an application for a new licence now because the trading standards officers will be around checking come Christmas. They know where you live; they know where you trade.

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