HUNDREDS of licensed premises in Hyndburn could be closed down if they fail to comply with new laws which come into force this year.
Under the Licensing Act 2003 anyone who sells alcohol, puts on entertainment or serves hot food after 11pm must apply for a new licence to be able to continue trading.
Takeaways, on and off licences and restaurants are among the businesses affected by the legislation, which also governs premises that host public performances even though they may not have had to be licensed under the previous regime.
However, only a handful of premises in the borough have applied for the new licence, prompting concerns that many businesses do not fully understand the new laws.
Hyndburn Council has so far received just 34 out of the expected 350 premises applications, 57 out of the 850 expected personal licences and only 10 per cent of the total applications expected across Lancashire have been received.
Those which fail to comply with the legislation by 24 November will be unable to trade and applications received from existing premises after 6 August will be treated as new applications.
A spokesperson for Hyndburn Council said: "In line with all licensing authorities in England and Wales we have received only a small percentage of applications from existing licensees.
"We have encouraged local licensees to make early applications and have issued guidance, application forms and a newsletter in order to help them. The final date for existing premises to apply for a new licence is 24 November."
Paul Charlson, Chair of the Lancashire Licensing Officers Group, which represents all of the county's local authorities, added: "We all have great concerns that with only weeks to go before the end of the transitional period there have been so few applications.
"The message is clear - time is running out. All existing licensed businesses must apply to their local council before 6 August 2005 if they wish to convert their existing permissions. However if any business affected by the act does not have a licence by 24 November 2005 they will not be able to trade - it's as simple as that.
"All the authorities in the Lancashire Group are willing to assist businesses during this period of change. It is vitally important that licensees submit their applications now or risk closure in November."