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The British government is pressuring councils across England to open pubs early on Sunday to serve fans who had gathered to watch the Lionesses take on Spain in the Women’s World Cup final.
Upgrade Secretary Michael Gove wrote The leaders of England’s 318 local authorities received a letter on Thursday encouraging them to work with police to fast-track applications from venues who want extended opening hours on the day of the final, which kicks off at 11am local time.
The Home Office has also asked police chiefs to help ensure as many venues as possible are allowed to host screenings, the government added.
The government’s move comes after industry calls for licensing laws to be relaxed on final day to allow pubs to serve alcohol from an hour before matches. According to the British Beer and Pub Association, most people are only entitled to serve alcohol from 11am onwards.
BBPA chief executive Emma McClarkin called earlier on Thursday for the government to “step in and allow the necessary regulatory relaxation” to loosen licensing rules. The Liberal Democrats called on the government to win a “last-minute victory” for the industry and recall parliament to make ad hoc tweaks to the 2003 licensing act. Similar changes were made for the men’s Euro 2020 final between England and Italy and for the fiftieth anniversary of the accession of the late Queen.
Upgrades acknowledged that most bars and pubs already have the right to show the game during normal business hours. “I’ve asked councils to do what they can to help open pubs earlier on Sunday so people can get together for a drink before this special day begins,” Gove said.
The World Cup final will be the first time England have played in the final game of the sport’s global championship since the men’s team won the title in 1966. The game for the Lionesses drew huge national attention and marked a leap forward for England. Seven million viewers tuned in to watch the women’s game on Wednesday as England beat co-hosts Australia to reach the final.
Interest in the final could generate a £41m boost to the hospitality industry, according to forecasts by trade body UK Hospitality. But at the same time, the pub industry is being tested by a cost of living crisis and high inflation. The number of pub closures hit a decade high in the first quarter, with 200 licensed establishments going into bankruptcy, according to official figures analyzed by accountants Price Bailey.
Steven Alton, chief executive of the British Hotel Management Association, said Gove’s letter was a “very welcome pragmatic move”, but added that the government should help pubs deal with “anomalies in all areas of their business”. And rising costs” “require industry-wide VAT reductions or extended business tax relief.
City Pub Group chief executive Clive Watson said the move provided a small boost to the industry. “It helps the hospitality industry . . . but I don’t think a lot of people are drinking massive pints before 11am. It’s really about bringing people together.
Kate Nicholls, chief executive of Hospitality UK, said: “It’s been really positive to work with the government to make sure everyone has the opportunity to take part in the celebrations. A pragmatic approach to opening venues early so people can make the most of this momentous moment.”