Entertainment and alcohol licensing

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Monday 30 August 2004 2.03pm
On another thread, Sarah reminded us that a new regime is coming in (under last year's Licensing Act). Local authorties will become responsible not only for entertainment (music and dancing) licensing and "night cafe" licensing, but also for alcohol licensing - previously dealt with separately by the local magistrates.

As Sarah said, this is likely to be a big issue for SE1, given the growth of the number of licensed premises, and the steady conversion of former commercial buildings into residential use. In the past SE1 was seen as the ideal location for all night licenses because, unlike areas under stress from the night time economy such as Soho, there were "no neighbours".

In a classic example of the lack of "joined-up" Government, the department responsible for licensing policy, DCMS, was pursuing what most commentators see as a "deregulatory" approach - pushing for the twenty-four economy. Meanwhile the Home Office has just started to wake up to the association between late night drunkenness and much disorder/anti-social behaviour.
AFAIK, implementation of the Act has been delayed while the two arms of central Government tried to sort out model guidance for licensing authorities that strikes a balance. This was only issued to local authorities in July.

DCMS Guidance

All local authorities are required to consult on their draft licensing policy

LB Lambeth

The meeting of the Licensing Committee on 7 September is likely to approve the start of Lambeth's formal Consultation on Statement of Licensing Policy - the probable date for close of the consultation appears to be 1 October.

Links to documents on Lambeth website

Statement of Licensing Policy

Licensing Act 2003 - Timetable

Licensing Questionnaire

The draft policy includes the possibility that Lambeth could declare some areas to be subject to a "special saturation policy" and reject more licensed premises in such an area. I suspect the entertainment industry will try and object to this.

The draft policy may be discussed further by the North Lambeth Area Committee on October 6th (agenda and venue tbc) - it appears that the item is currently "for information only" at that meeting. The original intention when Lambeth Council set up its new area committees was that they would take licensing decisions. However, this seems to be off the agenda until the impact of the changes are clearer.

The covering report to the licensing committee states: "It is anticipated that the majority of licensed premises will take advantage of the opportunity to apply for an extension of opening hours when they apply for licences under the new Act.

As the sun has now come out again, I'll do the delving into the position in Southwark another time - unless James H cares to spend his Bank Holiday wrestling with the Southwark website.
Monday 30 August 2004 2.58pm
Cheers Rabbie.
The Lambeth statement fits with other informal views held by other Local Authorities that though they may try to set limits, such as midnight, it is likely that breweries will successfully challenge. Plus now licenses will no longer be subject to annual review, and, I think, attached to premises rather than people, there will be less motivation for licensees to work with police over problems. And a late license becomes more akin to a planning permission so there is a motivation for premise owners to apply for more then they want in order to increase the value of their property. (Hence why I opposed the licence for the Lambeth owned building opposite, because with an established late night licence, and on the Lambeth 'disposals' list there was every chance it could become a night club.)

More worryingly it seems that once a licence is granted it is up to the local authority/local residents to provide proof that the licence has been abused. This requires expensive late night monitoring, and worse still, if the local authority or local residents lose any subsequent court case, they will be liable for costs. It's one thing going along to a licensing committee and putting forward a resident's view when a licence is up for renewal, and quite another running the risk that your resident's association, backed by the Council or not, are liable for the exensive legal costs of a big brewer or pub chain.

Interestingly many small pubs and bars are equally concerned as they fear being driven out, or having town centres change from pleasant places to spend an evening to ghettos inhabited only by the white stiletto brigade.

This is something that will affect all of us. Successful urban regeneration has been based on mixed use, including residential, and attractive evening economies: resturants, theatres, shopping and bars. But evening economies are hard to manage, and town centres can easily become dominated by a culture of heavy drinking. This act takes away from local authorities one of the key tools to manage the balance.

As Rabbie implies, there is divergence of thinking between key Whitehall Departments. I think ODPM is also worried for the reasons above, yet DCMS seems mainly focussed on the promotion of tourism. Yet if Bankside/South Bank become the sort of places people dont want to live in, they will also become the sort of places Tourist won't feel safe visiting.

Westminster, along with their strange bed-fellow the GLA, have been in the lead in opposing the act. Other inner-London boroughs are also worried. After the success of the postal campaign, perhaps local politicians might like to post telling us what steps they plan to take to protect our interests.
Monday 30 August 2004 6.42pm
Licensing did used to be a Home Office responsibility - recognising the link between drink and crime. When I worked in the part of the office dealing with this (in the late 90s), licensing law was in desperate need of reform being based on a series of out of date legislation which clogged up the magistrates courts and was a burden on business. The plan was to simplify the system and relax licensing laws so we could have a more continental drinking culture. There was an optimistic hope that with no closing time, there would be no more heavy drinking just before closing time and lots of people pouring out on to the streets at the same time - leading to fights etc. So the approach being taken was initiated by the Home Office.

I'm not sure things would have been much different if the Home Office still had responsibility. DCMS will have consulted ACPO and the long discussion to sort out guidance will have been about getting joined up.

Anyway, I'll stop defending my employers now ...

My impression is that british drinking culture has been in the process of change while the the Home office review was going on - particulalry with the rise if female binge drinking, alcopops and the constant glorfication of drunkenness by advertisers etc. Now the problem is worse and the above optimistic hope seems foolish.

As both of you say, the police and the local authorities need to have the power to close places which are a nuisance. Perhaps this is why there is a link to premises rather than landlord? I'd be interested to hear about Southwark's plans

The problem is how do civilised people who would have stayed in the Scotia for another hour after closing time get to continue socialising, without allowing Bermondsey St to be taken over by rampaging drunken yobs?
Wednesday 1 September 2004 3.08pm
Modigliani has just posted on another thread:

>Southwark Council have commenced consultation on the new licensing policy today and it runs for 6 weeks. Details on the Southwark website.

[LR - at present these can be found by running a search:
News page
Draft policy:
Questionnaire - response deadline 15 October
http://www.southwark.gov.uk/Uploads/FILE_9291.pdf ]

>There will be consultation/ workshop at the next community Council Meeting on 28th Sept. at Charles Dickens School 7pm.

>Basically, all licensing applications will be dealt with solely by Southwark Council Licensing Dept. on delegated authority (including liquor which previously went to Magistrates Court) If there are any objections the application will go to Community Council.

>The Southwark Licensing Dept. will be running a stall at the Bankside Information Day on Friday 3rd Sept at Southwark Cathedral 11 - 6 pm. Bankside Residents Fourm will be there too....

Sunday 5 September 2004 2.11pm
The agenda for Bermondsey Community Council (Grange/Riverside/South Bermondsey wards) this coming Tuesday also includes a consultation on the licensing statement and a workshop.

Editor of the London SE1 website.
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