I am not an expert on licensing law but, given that we do not have price controls, if publicans wish to charge a fee of this kind, I presume they are free to do so, although I am not certain of the licensing implications. Licensing relates to a person's suitability to have a licence, police it and enforce the criminal law and opening times. It does not refer to pricing.
It is wrong to say people do not have choices. The majority of pubs do not charge these cover fees, but some people seem to be insensitive and will pay almost anything to go to places they believe to be popular. The variations in this city between a pub in one area and in another nearby are incredible. My message to consumers is that the law cannot protect them in these situations and it is not practical that it should. We cannot have people inspecting every price on every occasion to see if the controls are enforced. We must ensure that, through competition and people shopping around, the free market operates in this area, as it does in airline tickets, hotel rooms and other areas of life.