Hackney will not be closing at midnight
Concerns have been raised in the media about the Council’s licensing consultation, alongside fears that the Council plans to make all venues close at midnight. Cllr Emma Plouviez, Licensing Committee Chair, explains why the Council is proposing changes to the Licensing Policy, and what these would really mean for the borough’s late night venues.
Hackney is seen as one of the best places in London for a night-out. I couldn’t agree more - it’s vibrant, it’s exciting and I’m very proud of the borough’s reputation as top night-time destination. I want to reassure everyone that we do not want this to change. In no way are these policy changes aimed at allowing us to make all venues close at midnight; not now, or in the future.
“To understand why we’re proposing these measures it’s important to understand how Hackney has changed since we last reviewed the policy in 2011. Nightlife is booming and the areas where people spend their nights have expanded. Between 2011 and 2014, 342 new licences were granted, taking the total number of alcohol, late night and entertainment licences in Hackney to almost 1,300.
“The vast majority of these are in Dalston and Shoreditch. We’re reaching saturation point and in our view these areas are losing the balance between the rights of residents and the rights of businesses. It’s the Council’s job to try and strike this fair balance around quality of life, and this is why we are proposing changes to the Licensing Policy.
“It’s true that the night-time economy creates jobs and brings visitors and money to the borough, which is great, but more and more residents who live in areas such as Dalston and Shoreditch are having to contend with people peeing in their gardens, shouting outside their windows at 4am and a host of other antisocial behaviour. Alcohol-related ambulance calls are also on the increase during the evening in these areas, as is the cost to the taxpayer of having to clear up the ever growing piles of litter every weekend.
“Some businesses are questioning the need for the updated policy claiming we want to impose a ‘blanket ban’ on new licences. This is not true. The current Shoreditch Special Policy Area (SPA) has been in place in since 2005 and anyone familiar with the area will know there’s not been a crackdown on new bars and clubs opening, quite the opposite, it’s just allowed us to manage things more effectively. The extension of the SPA would allow us to manage other areas in the same way.
“We already consider applications on a case-by-case basis, and this won’t change. However, with existing regulation it’s difficult for us to make decisions based on what is best for the area and the residents who live there, with the balance currently firmly in favour of businesses, whether they’re reputable or not.
“Reference has been made the use of the term ‘Not Considered Appropriate’ in the policy document. We have used the word appropriate because it reflects what's in the Licensing Act 2003. It does not mean that we won’t grant licenses for those types of venues, it’s just the jargon used in licensing regulation which means the balance does not automatically favour the applicant and gives other people more of a say.“
We believe this policy would be clearer and fairer for everyone, while maintaining the fantastic variety of nightlife in Hackney. It aims to provide a more appropriate mix, and proposes a range of measures such as different opening hours for town centres and residential areas; relaxation of the Dalston SPA with later ‘core hours’ for new businesses; and new acceptable hours for restaurants, theatres and cinemas in town centres.“
The consultation runs until 14 August and we will listen to the views of businesses and residents before we finalise the policy for the next five years.