PUBS, clubs, restaurants and take-aways could be closed down later this year unless they apply soon for new licenses.

All premises that sell alcohol, put on entertainment or serve hot food after 11pm have to apply for a licence, even if it is just a renewal, and a deadline of August 6 has been set for applications to be received by local authorities.

The Government's licensing minister, James Purnell, announced last week that the cut-off date for old licenCes would be November 24. From that date, any premises without a new licence would be forced to close

He said: "If pubs, restaurants, take-aways and supermarkets don't have a new licence in November, when the new law comes in, they won't be able to trade."

As well as applying for licenses for their premises, individuals also have to have licences, and many businesses are expected to submit multiple applications.

So far, the national average for premises applications received is just 3pc, and no authority in our region has had more than 10pc of the applications expected.

Local authorities are warning that a rash of late applications just before the August 6 deadline will result in a backlog that could see licenCes not issued in time for November 24.

Of all the local authorities in the D&S Times area, Darlington has had the fewest applications for premises - just eight out of an expected 450.

A spokesman for the council said: "Many licensees may think the new rules do not apply to them, as annual public entertainment licenCes had to be renewed in April and liquor licenCes were renewed for a three-year period earlier this year. But all of these licences will fail to apply once the new legislation comes in in November.

"We would urge people to get their applications in as soon as possible, so all of the licenCes can be in place by November 7."

David Kitching, Stockton council's trading standards and licensing manager, said the number received was "disappointingly low."

"We have received aabout 10pc of those we expect," he said. "We are expecting up to 500 applications for premises and about 1,000 applications from individuals.

"We have carried out a great deal of publicity, with several newsletters, visits to Pub Watch meetings and individual premises.

"One of the problems applicants seem to be facing is a difficulty in producing the plans of premises that the legislation requires, with only a limited number of surveyors able to take on this work."

A spokesman for Middlesbrough council said: "It's a very worrying situation and we are encouraging people all we can to sign up as soon as possible, otherwise we will be facing a very difficult situation."

The story is the same in North Yorkshire, with Richmondshire and Hambleton district councils reporting a poor response to date.

Martyn Richards, head of legal and democratic services at Hambleton, said: "We are surprised at the low number of applications received so far, given that there is now less than two months to the deadline.

"Anyone not obtaining a premises licence by November 24 will find it difficult to operate legally to sell alcohol, provide regulated entertainment or provide late night refreshments.

"We urge everyone currently involved in these activities to consider the need to make an application."

Ranj Matharu, a specialist licensing lawyer and partner with Crutes in the North-East, said: "Much of the fuss over the Licensing Act has been about the impact of 24-hour opening, but with very few landlords even asking for this, the reality doesn't match up with the headlines.

"We could be looking at a situation where, come November, some pubs can't open at all. That would certainly have an impact on this year's festive celebrations across the North-East."

Applications for premises received by each local authority is as follows: