Insight Local Government Lawyer Insight February 2018 39 shouting abuse (or maybe praise) at the well-dressed ‘vomiter’. The noise as more and more poured out from the club was awful. The door-staff were hopeless. There were unmistakable signs of drugs misuse by the clubbers: pupils the size of saucers; silly smiles; trance-like drifting in and out of moving traffic. The occasional blasting of car horns was certainly enough to wake anyone trying to sleep in the nearby houses and flats. The sudden bursts of laughter, the horseplay, the shouting and screaming from departing clubbers would surely have kept them awake. A couple of weeks ago I went to Norwich on a Saturday night. I had read that Prince of Wales Road was the most dangerous street in Norwich, and that “you take your life in your hands if you go there after midnight on a weekend.” A site visit was irresistible. I knew I was safe when I saw how many uniformed police officers were already stationed there. About 30 on my first count – but the number grew as more patrol cars arrived. What impressed me more than the number of drunk people coming out of the clubs and bars was the number going into them. Of course not everyone milling around the streets was drunk – but a significant number were. From time to time it was indeed ‘intimidating’ (a word we so often hear from resident objectors, and too often disparage) to run the gauntlet through a group blocking the pavement. I was occasionally subject to mild verbal abuse. I entered licensed premises well known to me as claiming to have a “mature” customer base, and for not being “a music venue”, “serving food”, etc., according to the over-used mantra. The music-level was as deafeningly high as I have ever heard in any nightclub. There was no shortage of mildly drunk 20-30 year olds; and a good few, of that age band and older, were already (it was only 12:30) way past “mildly drunk”. Needless to say, there was no sign of food being eaten – or even available. In short, there is absolutely no question but that many of these premises’ customers would undermine, significantly, the Norwich cumulative impact policies, when they spilled out, drunk and in high spirits, into the city night. I spoke to a police officer about these and other licensed premises known to me – brand-names popping up all over the Country: he said that the premises themselves were ‘OK’, and they did not give rise to ‘many’ problems on site. It was what was on the streets, he said, that was his principal concern. My practice takes me to many towns and cities other than Norwich. And I have sometimes been curious enough to leave my hotel room and take a look around me late at night and early in the morning. What I saw in Norwich on a Saturday night was little different from what I have seen, for example, in Newcastle, York, Manchester, Nottingham and Birmingham. In 2015 figures from The Office for National Statistics appeared to show that binge drinking among young adults was on a downward curve; and in 2016 the proportion of adults who said they drink alcohol was said to be at its lowest level since 2005. Then, in 2017, The Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs reported that binge drinking has fallen among college students. But no statistics, no sheet of paper with numbers on it, can persuade me to ignore what I have witnessed with my own eyes. However much better things may be than they have been (and that is open to question) there are undoubtedly alcohol-related (drunk- related!) issues in the UK, serious issues, which still need to be addressed. In answer to the question I posed at the top of this segment, therefore, I have no doubt whatsoever that there is a present need for cumulative impact policies in a number of licensing districts throughout the UK. It would be absurd to conclude otherwise. I now turn to the implementation, or otherwise, of cumulative impact policies in licensing areas where they have been adopted. What is going wrong? To be clear: first of all, many licensing authorities do decide applications in accordance with their cumulative impact policies – each case, of course, being decided on its merits. Nothing is going wrong there. Secondly, I am not saying that every grant of a new premises licence in a cumulative impact zone means that something is “going wrong”. A grant, such as the recent grant of a licence for Koko (Camden Palace) seems – I do not know the details – to be a good illustration of things “going right”. Thirdly, even if a new licence will add to the cumulative impact in an area, it may still properly be granted if the licensing sub-committee thinks that the ‘Hope & Glory balance’ tilts in its favour. So: when I say “something is going wrong” I am referring to grants of new licences in cumulative impact zones, in respect of premises whose customers (away from the premises) will certainly add to the familiar list of anti-social problems; which premises have nothing material to the question of cumulative impact to distinguish them from the existing bars and clubs in the area. I am truly perplexed by some of these grants, and in preparing this article I have tried to figure out why the sub-committee has so decided. Here are six possible answers: (1) Sub-committees too readily buy the sales-pitch (no matter how far-fetched it is) I sometimes think there is a crib-sheet doing the rounds of “things to say” (whether they are true or not) when you want a licence in a cumulative impact zone. I mention that because I have begun to see, from application to application, precisely the same words and phrases cropping up in different witness statements, in support of different applications, by different operators, represented by different lawyers – as though these words and phrases have been ‘cut-and-pasted’ from some master document. My imagined crib-sheet might read – ● We have a mature customer base: it is immaterial that your customers are mostly in their twenties – go ahead and say they’re in their late thirties and forties. It’s notoriously difficult to assess a person’s age, so you won’t be found out. ● We don’t encourage students: get your private investigator to visit your existing premises during the holidays. ● We are food-led: you can give whatever figures of the ‘alcohol/food split’ you like – no one will be able to contradict you. ● We are hiring in a well-known chef: he/she needn’t be employed – a consultancy will do (but don’t volunteer this). They needn’t even be well-known! Get them to talk about their “passion” for whatever gimmick food offering you have in mind. “Passion” is the big thing right now. ● We will have 75% of the floor area given to seating: people drink while they’re sitting down, so don’t worry: just make