LONDON Pubs and bars in Britain will be allowed to stay open late during England's World Cup soccer matches this year after the government reversed a decision not to grant a blanket licence to allow extended hours for late games.
Prime Minister David Cameron ordered a re-think in February after an outcry from the pub industry when the government initially refused permission for a nationwide extension of opening hours to accommodate late games.
On Monday a government consultation said bars could stay open as late as 0100 local time if England had a late kick off, which is two hours later than most pubs close up for the night.
"The Government believes that England playing in the World Cup is an occasion of exceptional national significance," the consultation document concluded.
"Many people will wish to enjoy watching the matches in pubs and bars and experience the atmosphere of the occasion with fellow football fans."
The time difference between Britain and Brazil, where the tournament is being held, means kick off for England's tournament opener against Italy on June 14 is 2200 GMT, or 2300 British summer time, just as many pubs without special licences start to close.
The initial decision meant pubs would have had to apply individually for late licences, but now a blanket provision will be made across the country for pubs wishing to stay open late.
The British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) welcomed the decision after arguing for the extended hours by saying that around 4 million Britons watched England's 2010 World Cup opener against the United States from pubs.
"It's really great news, which will put pubs at the heart of a great national event," said BBPA Chief Executive Brigid Simmonds.