Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill

Memorandum submitted by Yellowhammer Bars Ltd (PR 14)

YELLOWHAMMER BARS LIMITED submission to the House of Commons Public Bills Committee in respect of licensing reform: Rebalancing the Licensing Act

We have taken the time to read through your response to the Licensing Act Consultation and as a large UK late night bar operator, we feel that some of the proposals being made will adversely affect the industry, as a whole, and would like to comment as below:-

Clause 109 – Reducing the burden

There would be a huge effect on Premises Licences if the proposal to change the wording from 'necessary' to 'appropriate' were enforced. How is ‘appropriate’ to be defined? Currently a licence will have conditions imposed upon it if it is ‘necessary’ to promote the licensing objectives, for example – A premises that has had a number of glass related incidents could be forced by way of conditions, to use polycarb glasses instead of glass, which would be seen as a 'necessary' step to promote the licensing objective under public safety. However, would it under ‘appropriate’ give the authorities the power to enforce this condition, even if there have been no incidents to prove that it is required?

Clause 105 – Premises Licences

The proposal here is to remove the requirement that interested parties must be in the vicinity. We believe that the current proposal will make it very difficult for Licensing Officers to refuse to accept representations.

Would this also mean that local/national bodies, such as anti alcohol groups, health concern groups can now object to licences?  This will also make hearings much more costly for both operators and the council, as more time will be required for all representations to be heard.  Also this could lead to more conditions being added to premises licences, as councils try to appease all objectors.

Clause 112 – Temporary Event Notices

We question the need to serve the Environmental Health Officer with every application. Our concern with the Environmental Health Officer, being contacted in advance, is the possibility that some may seek to impose standard requirements on all applications, particularly those where music may be played. Surely if problems do arise the Environmental Health Officer could simply review the licence with a view to imposing conditions on such functions?

Why also, should the Environmental Health Officer have the opportunity to object on the basis of all 4 of the licensing objectives, surely the Police should be the only authority to object on the grounds of crime and disorder?

Clause 118 – Early Morning Restriction Orders

We feel that imposing a blanket ban on premises within an area is somewhat unfair, specifically to those that may be trading responsibly and lawfully.

We are concerned that if an early morning restriction order is imposed in one area, but not in another close by, it might shift people to these ‘non affected’ areas for their late evening entertainment and this would adversely affect the area that had imposed the Early Morning Restriction Order.

Clause 124 – late Night Levy

This will add a huge cost to businesses – Our Company alone will have to pay out an extra £45,000 a year to cover the fees across the country. Another concern with this clause is the fact that it applies to the entire Local Authority area. Local Authorities vary all over the country. Some may only be responsible for one town or city centre. Others may have two or three small towns within them. If a problem exists in one particular town then why should other towns, where no problems arise, have to pay the levy? Are we to be told annually where our money has been spent and will the fee be used to solely assist with the night time economy, i.e. policing, wardens, cleaning etc?

Clause 120 – Suspension of licence or certificate for failing to pay the annual fee

Are the councils going to look at the way the invoicing for the annual fee is handled? We as a company have numerous issues with the annual fee payment process, due to not receiving invoices from the council at all, or receiving 2 invoices for the same premises, both requesting payment. If this new laws comes in and we had already paid our annual fee, but due to computer error we receive a further invoice, are we to pay this also to stop our licence being suspended, therefore paying 2 fees? Is there to be a period of grace? How long is the licence to be suspended for?

I do hope that our letter has provided you with some sensible feedback to your response.

January 2010