Response to the  Consultation Paper
on the Proposed Changes to the Law on Sunday Observance and Liquor
Licensing Relating to Public Dances on Sundays
1.1 Thank you for giving the British Resorts
Association the opportunity to contribute to the above consultation.
The Association represents some 53 Local Authorities with substantial
coastal tourism interests. Included within this number are the
majority of the large and medium-sized traditional seaside resorts,
together with many of the most popular rural coastal areas. A
membership list is at Annex A.
2. Coastal Tourism and the Impact of the
2.1 The Value of Coastal Tourism. Coastal
tourism accounts for just under 50% of all domestic tourism activity
by both volume and value. The 1993 United Kingdom Tourism Statistic
(UKTS) estimates the value of all domestic tourism at £6
billion, of which, £3 billion was attributed to the coast.
However, a more recent and detailed study conducted in the North
West estimates at £550 million alone and it is therefore
not unreasonable to assume that the UKTS may represent a conservative
2.2 Seasonality and Bank Holidays. Despite
great efforts to breakdown the seasonal nature of domestic tourism,
a greater proportion of the activity, particularly in the coastal
belt, is concentrated into the 6 months, April through to October,
with strong peaks over the Bank Holiday weekends.
2.3 The Visitors' View of Sundays. Holidaymakers
do not pay particular attention to the days of the week, especially
if they are staying for anything more than a couple of days. Singling
out Sundays for restricted trading, in an already limited season
has a major impact on many operators. Again this is particularly
apparent over the bank holidays where the third and last night
of the holiday period carries severe restrictions.
2.4 Visitors' Access to Functions and Events.
Many businesses are able to circumvent the restrictions by use
of such permissible ploys as club membership and other, apparently
none permissible ploys, such as pre-selling tickets or increasing
charges for associated services. In general, these loopholes demand
an element of pre-planning which does not necessarily fit well
with the impulse driven nature of holiday activities and the demands
of the average tourists. Where events do take place on a Sunday
and visitors have to be excluded because of the restrictions,
it can create an unwelcoming atmosphere which will almost certainly
damage the tourism environment.
2.5 Lost Potential Income. The net effect
is that a major British industry is losing the opportunity to
trade to its maximum capacity on something approaching 15 percent
of the available days in any already seasonally restricted year.
In financial terms this is extremely difficult to quantify accurately,
but clearly it will represent a considerable sum in lost potential
income. To illustrate the likely scale of the potential profit
and the current losses we would cite one local authority run establishment
chosen at random. On a normal weekday New Year's Eve the venue
would hold a public dinner dance. This event would sell out several
months in advance and the 600 guests would generate a minimum
turnover of £5,000. This event cannot take place in 1995
unless of course the legislation is amended. The particular local
authority concerned currently issues something in the order of
120 similar entertainment licenses to premises within its area.
Of these, 32 are also effected by special hours licenses.
2.6 Administrative Burden. Many venues
do hold various events on Sundays despite the limitations imposed.
In order to do so, the terms and conditions of entertainment and
liquor licenses often demand that separate and/or additional authority
is sought. This additional administrative burden would be removed
if Sundays were treated in the same way as any other day of the
week as you propose. Again it is difficult to quantify the current
costs, but given that applications have to be drafted, checked
submitted, considered and then authorised or rejected, the workload
is not insignificant. This involves the licensee, the licensing
authority and usually a third party acting in the capacity of
a legal adviser.
2.7 International Competition. Many resort
areas have suffered a loss of traditional low spend holiday business.
This has been replaced in many areas by a lower volume of much
higher spending trade, competing directly with the foreign out
bound holiday market. The appeal of foreign holidays to certain
segments of the customer base, particularly the younger element,
has much to do with the popular perception that foreign destinations
have a more relaxed attitude towards the provision of night life
and entertainment. The current legislation with its archaic restrictions
in England and Wales does not therefore, help the British resorts
to compete on equal terms with some of the more popular comparable
destinations abroad. Your proposals will not put British resorts
on an equal footing, but they will at least go some way to help
redress the balance.
3. The Requirement
3.1 Public Dancing. We believe that it
should be permissible to sell tickets or make other suitable charges
for entry by the public to dances, discotheques or other similar
events on a Sunday under the terms and conditions applied locally
on any other day of the week. This would allow functions to be
judged on merit, while still allowing for rejection on Sundays,
if local circumstances or local attitudes demanded it.
3.2 Liquor Licensing. We also believe
that exactly the same provisions should be made for applications
to extended licensing hours on Sundays. Again adequate safeguards
exist, should extended hours be deemed to be inappropriate to
the local circumstances.
4. Implementation Timetable
4.1 The Constraint. We are grateful that
you have identified the requirement for rapid action and the news
that Christmas and New Year celebrations 1995 are your targets.
We would, however, caution you that if the arrangements are not
put in place early enough, whilst it will still be technically
possible to hold a public dance, the practical problems of making
the necessary arrangements will preclude it. If the timetable
is not carefully considered, your laudable efforts to assist the
industry will only result in you becoming the target of largely
4.2 Applications. We estimate that in
order for the licensing authorities to consider applications in
time for Christmas Eve the changes must be in force by 1 November
1995. Realistically, allowing for time to disseminate information
and call the necessary meeting of the authorising bodies, the
legislation would need to be in place by mid-October at the latest.
4.3 Planning events. Having consulted
with operators, they have indicated that they really need to know
what the arrangements are likely to be 12 months in advance. They
then need to be able to confirm details by no later than July
or early August. Many operators are already assuming that they
will require such things as bands and have made provision bookings,
but many more are unaware of the consultation and the potential
opportunity. It may not be necessary, or indeed practical to ensure
legislation is in place before the summer recess in July, but
by that date it would be advisable to confirm the likely timetables
and further publicise the intention to amend the regulations.
4.4 Delaying Beyond the New Year. We have
considered whether you would be advised to delay the implementation
beyond New Year 1995 thus avoiding the difficulties already outlines.
Unfortunately, having indicated within the consultation the desire
to achieve the changes for Christmas 1995, you have already raised
expectations. If you now fail to deliver, this will again create
a critical backlash, particularly as some operators have already
begun to commit themselves on the assumption that the change will
be implemented by Christmas.
4.5 Resort Timetable. From the point of
view of our members, a change of legislation cannot come too soon.
While Christmas and New Year celebrations are major events for
them, they present only a fraction of the annual business, most
of which is largely concentrated in the summer months. If the
legislation were put in place tomorrow, clearly there would be
a considerable opportunity to exploit the changes throughout the
rest of the summer season. As the days pass the number of exploitable
Sundays within the season obviously reduces as does the potential
5.1 The Association are delighted that you have
identified a need to act on the issues of Sunday dance and liquor
licensing. We firmly believe that the proposal will greatly assist
our multibillion pound industry to increase its profitability
and its contribution to the UK economy. It will also assist the
domestic holiday market to compete on more equal terms with its
comparable foreign competitors. Your proposal also has the distinct
advantage that adequate safeguards will remain in place and that
where local circumstance or local attitudes demand it, licenses
can be refused on Sundays.
5.2 Our only concern regards the proposed timetable
and the potential for unnecessary dispute. Having indicated a
desire to implement the proposal so that it can be used during
Christmas 1995, it is important that you do so. This demands that
legislation is in place by mid-October at the latest. Ideally,
in place by late July. From the resort point view point, anything
earlier would represent a bonus in the form of a clear opportunity
to exploit the new regulation during what remains of the 1995
6.1 Thank you for asking the British Resorts
Association to contribute to the debate concerning these excellent
proposals. We would be delighted to expand on any aspects of our
response, or indeed offer any assistance which might assist you
to bring the changes into force in the earliest opportunity.