At the half year mark Paddy Whur analyses the substantial, and tinkering, changes to the licensing landscape.
Late night levy
Whilst there has been limited take up of the Late Night Levy (and none for the EMRO = ADZ’s rebranded??) it is interesting to see Wetherspoon’s reaction to its introduction.
Both the London Borough of Islington and The City of London Corporaion have voted to adopt the Late Night Levy. As a result of the introduction of the levy in Newcastle and Cheltenham, and now the vote to introduce it in the City of London and in Islington; J W Wetherspoon have announced that “wherever possible” they will vary their premises licences for all pubs falling in levy areas, as and when they are introduced by local councils, to reduce their opening hours and thus not be caught by the levy.
Most of the Wetherspoon’s estate close at midnight on weekdays but do stay open until 1.00am on Fridays and Saturdays so the weekend nights are the ones that will be affected.
It appears that Wetherspoon’s approach to this will be to apply to have conditions attached to existing premises licences in levy areas which remove the authorisations to sell alcohol during the period the levy applies but should the levy fall away the company would be then entitled to sell alcohol to the later hour without reapplying.
We will of course update in relation to this particular issues.
One interesting area announced in the last week has been the drinks industry agreeing to a new pledge under its responsibility deal. The new pledges, which are in addition to the eight core alcohol pledges already made as part of a public health responsibility deal, include:
- Supporting local areas through targeted partnership schemes for areas with high alcohol related harms;
- Reviewing the number of alcohol units contained in cans of carbonated products so they do not contain more then 4 units of alcohol;
- Providing training for 10,000 bar staff in the responsible retailing of alcohol;
- Providing £250,000 worth of funding for an independent alcohol education trust;
- Committing to offer lower alcohol house wines (below 12.5%) and low alcohol beers in pubs.
- Introducing new good practice guidance for the responsible retailing of alcohol in the off trade. Home Secretary Teresa May in reviewing this “responsibility deal” stated “alcohol fuelled harm costs taxpayers £21 billion per year. It is therefore right that the alcohol industry is taking action to help reduce this burden, without penalising those who drink responsibly. The Government welcomes the progress that the alcohol industry has made so far in responding to the challenge we set them. We now look forward to seeing the positive impact of these pledges and continue to work with the industry to explore what else can be done to tackle alcohol abuse”.
The BBPA (British Beer and Pub Association), Wine and Spirits Trade Association, The Association of Convenience Stores, SAB Miller, AB InBev and the Portman Group have reacted positively to this announcement.
We are hearing the first mutterings from the Home Office that there may be difficulty in bringing about the legislation required to remove the requirement to renew personal licences. The Deregulation Bill (clause 54) seeks to abolish personal licence renewals and is currently being considered by the House of Lords. However, there are still several stages to be undertaken before this would receive Royal Assent and the Government are nervous that the deadline of November 2014 is now looming large on the horizon for the earliest renewals in January 2015 to be avoided.
Again we will report as and when we hear anything further.
Deregulation of entertainment
The DCMS published on 9 July a summary of responses in respect of the consultation on the proposal to use a legislative reform order to make changes to entertainment licensing. This covered plans to:
- Amend the licensing requirements in respect of live music and recorded music;
- Bring in cross activity licensing exemptions for local authorities, schools, hospitals, nurseries and circuses;
- Remove the licensing requirement Greco Roman and Freestyle Wrestling.
Having reviewed the consultation results the Government has now decided to implement further reforms through a legislative reform order and we will again continue to report on how this moves forward.
The Government announced that it still desired to cut red tape associated with playing live and recorded music at pubs and community events in the hope that it would encourage more tourism and hospitality business in offering live music and creating new and important revenue streams. The ALMR (Association of Licenced Multiple Retailers) have stressed that they are encouraged to see the Government taking steps to decrease bureaucracy for licensed hospitality stating “the Government's response to the consultation noted that pubs in the UK are breeding grounds for aspiring musical talents and a vital hotbed feeding the country’s creative industries. Pubs have always provided a home for new music from folk and acoustic rock to electronic music and DJs”.
Fixed odds betting terminals
Not wishing to be outdone there has also been an interesting development in the gambling sector in that on 9 July 2014, further to the Government's earlier announcement on the plans to curb the proliferation of high street betting shops, a Private Members Bill “Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (Betting Shops) Bill” was introduced. The Bill if it became legislation would require the Secretary of State to create a new planning use class for betting shops with fixed odds betting terminals. This would provide local planning authorities with the ability to assess demand for fixed odds betting terminal shops when considering an application for premises in that planning class. It would also place a cap on the number of such shops with which planning permission may be granted in a particular area.
This Bill is expected to have its second reading in February 2015 and again we will be keeping a close eye on its progress.
In a recent article on the Mu Mu appeal we highlighted that in the case “it was also argued by the appellant that the councillor was not eligible to sit on the licensing committee because he was a member of the council’s executive”.
We have been approached by Helen Blundell, the Solicitor who was responsible for this matter. Helen has highlighted that because the matter was determined on another point the Court never adjudicated on this particular issue. She has highlighted that there was argument on the side of the authority, which stated that a “member of the executive” is not the same as “the executive”, the latter being defined in Section 9C of the Local Government Act 2000. This is obviously an important distinction and as Helen highlighted the matter was not debated as a result of these proceedings.
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