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South Bank arts institutions raise fears over licensing clampdown

Lambeth Council has promised to hold talks with arts institutions on the South Bank after they warned that changes to licensing policy could significantly affect their programmes of free cultural events.

The council's cabinet discussed the review of the borough's licensing policy at its meeting on Monday night.

The new document divides the borough into four types of area and includes a set of 'preferred' closing times for licensable activities such as the sale of alcohol.

Most of Waterloo and the South Bank is classified under the policy as a major town centre where the following end times for licences are suggested:

• Restaurants & cafes: Fri-Sat 1am; Sun-Thu midnight
• Pubs and wine bars: Fri-Sat 2am; Mon-Thu 1am; Sun midnight
• Nightclubs: Fri-Sat 2am; Mon-Thu 1am; Sun midnight
• Off-licences: midnight daily
• Take-aways: Fri-Sat 2am; Mon-Thu 1am; Sun midnight

The hours proposed in the new policy will not affect existing licences but will be used as a yardstick to judge future applications.

Eddie Smith, technical director of Southbank Centre, addressed the meeting on behalf of "the largest licensed premises in the borough" and said he was also representing the National Theatre and BFI Southbank as well as the Waterloo Quarter licensing group.

"Proposed future licensing hours which are significantly lower than current licences will have a significant effect on our income and our ability to support our free programme," said Mr Smith.

He also raised concerns about the prospect of a late-night levy on licensed premises and a provision in the policy for promoters of live performances to send risk assessments to Lambeth Police, which he warned could result in officers sifting through more than 10,000 documents a year from South Bank venues alone.

Cabinet members sought to reassure Mr Smith that the new rules were not set in stone and that later licences would still be granted where appropriate.

Cllr Sally Prentice, cabinet member for leisure and culture, described Southbank Centre as "an exemplary example of the night-time economy".

The new licensing policy must be agreed by a meeting of the full council before it takes effect.

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