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Cornwall council will allow pubs to open early on Sunday after the UK government urged local authorities to allow hospitality venues to accommodate football fans as the Lionesses take on Spain in the Women’s World Cup final.
The local authority said on Friday that it would not enforce licensing laws on Sunday, allowing pubs to open by 10am. Devon and Cornwall police said it would follow suit.
The move comes after levelling-up secretary Michael Gove on Thursday wrote to the leaders of England’s 318 local authorities asking them to work with police forces to fast-track any applications by premises looking to extend opening hours on the day of the final in Sydney, Australia, and which kicks off at 11am UK time.
The Home Office had also asked police chiefs to help ensure that as many venues as possible are allowed to host screenings, the government said.
Parliament’s recess has prevented the government from passing temporary legislation allowing pubs to open nationwide, despite the Liberal Democrats calling for a return from the summer break.
MPs voted through similar exemptions to the 2003 Licensing Act for the Euro 2020 men’s football final between England and Italy and for the late Queen’s platinum jubilee.
“Although it is too late to issue licences to allow our pubs and clubs to open, this is a sensible way forward, ensuring their businesses can benefit from the occasion, and so people can come together to enjoy the match together,” said Linda Taylor, Cornwall council leader.
The hospitality industry earlier this week called on the government to loosen licensing laws on the day of the final so that pubs could serve alcoholic beverages from an hour before the game. Most only have the right to serve alcohol from 11am onwards, according to the British Beer and Pub Association.
Prior to Gove’s letter, Emma McClarkin, BBPA chief executive, urged the government “to step in and allow the necessary regulatory easement” to loosen licensing rules.
The levelling-up department acknowledged that existing rules meant most bars and pubs already had the right to show the game within usual opening hours. But Gove said he had “asked councils to do everything they can to help pubs get open earlier on Sunday, so people can come together and enjoy a drink before kick-off for this special occasion”.
The World Cup final clash will be the first time that an England team has featured in the last match of a global football tournament since the men’s side claimed victory in 1966. The campaign by the Lionesses has garnered huge national interest, marking a leap forward for the women’s game, with 7mn viewers tuning in on Wednesday to watch England reach the final by beating co-hosts Australia.
Interest in the final could provide a £41mn boost to the hospitality sector, according to projections by trade body UK Hospitality. But it comes as the pub sector is being tested by the cost of living crisis and high inflation.
Pub closures reached a decade-high in the first quarter, with 200 licensed venues entering insolvency, according to official data analysed by accountancy firm Price Bailey.
Steven Alton, chief executive of the British Institute of Innkeeping, said Gove’s letter was “a very welcome, pragmatic move” but added that for government to help pubs face up to “exceptional and escalating costs in all areas of their business” a sector-wide reduction of VAT or an extension of business rates relief would be needed.