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Sunday trading law change ‘not a free-for-all’

Plans to allow councils in England and Wales the powers to relax Sunday trading laws will not spell a 'free-for-all' for licensed premises.

Operators with premises in a number of different locations – particularly those running convenience stores – are also warned that there may well be regional variations in licensing laws which will have to be taken into account.

What is happening?

The Government has confirmed its plans to introduce new powers to devolve Sunday trading laws to local authorities.

This will allow councils to ‘zone’ any relaxation in trading laws so that they can prioritise high streets and city centres.

Presently, large shops are limited to six hours of trading on Sundays while small shops are unrestricted.

The package of measures being introduced also allows shop workers to give one month’s notice to larger shops that they no longer want to work on Sundays, down from the previous three months. Workers will also have a new right to opt out of working additional hours.

The Government has said that it expects councils to “balance the economic needs of their area, while being sympathetic to the impact it may have in the community”.

What does this mean?

The devolution of power to local authorities is likely to mean shops opening for longer than the current six hours which most stores currently operate.

However, this is likely to vary from council to council according to local demand and pressure from local communities.

In operation, relaxation of Sunday trading laws is likely to be centred in specific areas where there is already a high concentration of shops.

How does this affect licensed premises?

It is important to note, particularly for convenience stores which sell alcohol, that even if Sunday opening hours are expanded, it does not follow that they may sell alcohol during those extended hours.

Operators and licence holders need to check their licences to see exactly when they are currently permitted to sell alcohol on the premises.

Traditional alcohol licences allow premises to sell alcohol from 10am on a Sunday – if your opening hours can now start at 8am, you won’t be able to sell alcohol for the first two hours of opening.

The other thing to note is that some premises may be located outside of relaxation ‘zones’ and some local authorities may not relax Sunday trading laws so operators of multiple sites will need to check how each of their stores will be affected.

How can Ward Hadaway help?

We have national expertise on securing and varying alcohol licences for operators ranging from independent stores to large multiples.

For further information on how we can help you, please get in touch.

Please note that this briefing is designed to be informative, not advisory and represents our understanding of English law and practice as at the date indicated. We would always recommend that you should seek specific guidance on any particular legal issue.

This page may contain links that direct you to third party websites. We have no control over and are not responsible for the content, use by you or availability of those third party websites, for any products or services you buy through those sites or for the treatment of any personal information you provide to the third party.

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