Local authorities are warning that retailers who fail to get their alcohol licences granted in time will face prosecution the day the new regime comes into effect, on November 24.

Retailers have until August 6 to convert their current licence to a new one, and those failing to meet this deadline will be required to go through the daunting process of applying for a new licence from scratch. Anyone trying to sell alcohol from November 24 without a new-style licence will be committing a serious criminal offence, with maximum penalties of a £20,000 fine and six months imprisonment.

One council spokesman told C-Store: “While we are providing all the information and guidance we can about the new system, we will be working on an enforcement strategy with the police. We know who holds an alcohol licence at the moment, and if they haven’t applied for a new one, we will be visiting them to see if they are attempting to trade.”

Hackney Council in east London reported that by the end of June it had received applications from only 12% of licensed premises in the borough, compared to the 60% it was hoping for by now.

Of the first 250 applications submitted to the council, half were rejected, mainly because necessary documents such as floor plans or the current justice’s licence were not included.

Councillor Christine Boyd, chair of Hackney’s regulatory committee, said: “In Hackney we want to see business thriving. We are concerned that if the August 6 deadline is missed, retailers will lose their grandfather rights. This means they will incur extra costs and have to apply from scratch.”

Boyd advised retailers considering varying their licences to apply for a simple ‘old for new’ conversion immediately to make sure they meet the August 6 deadline, pointing out that variations can be dealt with at a later date.