Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill

Memorandum submitted by Luminar (PR 66)

General Comments

Luminar run popular entertainment venues where people can meet, eat, drink and dance. We do this responsibly and with care. We operate 77 venues and this is the largest square footage of nightclub capacity in the country.

Public dancing is at the heart of our business and we have an unrivalled ability to provide the best dancing experience around.

We aim to create memorable experiences so that our customers will enjoy their night out and come back to our clubs on a regular basis.

Over the past few years we have made significant investment in both our venues and our operations. This allows us to launch new products which are more closely tailored to the needs of our customers. These include the newly launched Fuzzy Logic student session and our recent joint venture with Ministry of Sound. Given the flexible layout of our venues we are also able to host a variety of corporate events such as fashion shows, proms, gala dinners, award ceremonies, conferences and filming opportunities.

We aim to offer different experiences to different people at different times and our aspiration is to become the first choice for public dancing, live entertainment and corporate or private events.

We work closely with our local licensing officers and authorities and from our discussions with them we have been advised that in certain areas where the authorities have worked in partnership with operators under the current legislation there has been a significant reduction in alcohol related crime.

Therefore, given this demonstrable progress, we are confused as to why the Government has decided to proceed with these licensing proposals when:

· the current system appears to be working without many concerns; and

· the changes proposed in the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill should be without any evidence being provided in support of such changes

Comments on Specific Issues

In view of our status as the market leader in our sector and bearing in mind that we welcome around 13 million customers to our venues each year, we would like to comment on the following specific issues:-

104 – Primary Care Trusts/Local Health Boards as Responsible Authorities

We believe it would be better to make the Primary Care Trusts/Local Health Board an ‘interested party’ rather than a ‘responsible authority’. As an interested party they would be able to make a representation to a licensing application if they believed it was likely to have an effect on the promotion of the licensing objectives.

105 – Premises Licences: Who May Make Relevant Representations

If the current proposal that interested parties (business or residents) must be ‘in the vicinity’ is removed it will make it difficult for Licensing Officers to refuse to accept representations.

While it makes sense that those who are affected by a licence should have the ability to influence whether or not it is granted, the current proposals would mean that a person could object even if that licence had no real or direct impact on them.

To address this we think a more sensible approach would be to adopt a similar provision to that contained in Section 158 of the Gambling Act 2005.

This defines an interested party as 'someone who, in the opinion of the Licensing Authority which issues the licence, or to which the application is made, is a person who:

a) lives sufficiently close to the premises to be likely to be affected by the authorised activities;

b) has a business interest that might be affected by the authorised activities;

c) represents persons who satisfy a) or b)’

109 - Reducing the Burden: Premises Licences

We concur with the comments of the British Beer and Pub Association (‘BBPA’) and Poppleston Allen.

The effect on Premises Licences of changing the word 'necessary' to 'appropriate' is, or could be, massive. We are not entirely clear how the word 'appropriate' will be defined by the Courts. It is defined in the Oxford English Dictionary as 'suitable or proper in the circumstances' whereas 'necessary' is defined as something that is 'needed to be done - essential'. By way of example, it is clearly unnecessary to impose conditions on a Licence where they are already contained in other legislation but is it also inappropriate?

112 – Temporary Event Notices: Who May Make an Objection

The Temporary Event Notices (‘TEN’s’) application process was meant to be a simple way of applying for extended hours or a specific provision that a parties licence didn’t already include.

The proposal to include the Environmental Health Officer (‘EHO’) "as an authority that needs to be served" will undoubtedly complicate the process and will add considerable bureaucracy. This must be contrary to the stated intention of the new Conservative and Liberal Coalition, which has been elected on a platform of reducing red tape and the impact of ‘big government’. Furthermore, such a change is actually unnecessary anyway because the EHO’s already have powers to review a licence if problems occur at a premises.

118 – Persistently Selling Alcohol to Children

While we are pleased that the Government has changed its proposal by retaining 48 hours as the lowest period of closure, i n view of the nature of the offence, we would support the BBPA's submission relating to imposing a Training Order upon the premises rather than a fixed period of closure.

It also seems to us that this provision will adversely affect the on-trade at a time when children, under the age of 18, can obtain alcohol which has been purchased in the off-trade.

119 – Early Morning Alcohol Restriction Orders

The introduction of an Early Morning Restriction Order (‘EMRO’) could have an adverse effect on businesses that have legitimately acquired the right to trade later and that are trading lawfully.

This is because it is very likely that, in the event of an EMRO being issued in a town, it would result in a loss of business for this area. Furthermore, it is highly probable that people from the affected area would travel to the nearest town where the EMRO was not in force and this could lead to a potential increase in public nuisance and crime and disorder in the next town where such customers are not able to gain entry to late night venues because such venues are already full.

120 – Suspension of Licence of Certificate for Failing to Pay Annual Fee

While in principle, we are not against the suspension of a licence if the holder fails to pay, our experience of the issue of licence payments and the administration of them leads us to conclude that putting such a scheme in place is fraught with problems.

To address this, a suitable cast iron procedure would have to be established and followed so as to ensure consistent and fair implementation. In the past we have had direct experience of the following:

a) Local authorities refusing to issue invoices. This inevitably delays payments because invariably the accounts departments of most businesses will not allow a fee to be paid unless it is supported by some form of back up evidence (i.e. an invoice or letter).

b) Local Authorities have been known to increase the annual fee when the rateable value has not changed and this has meant that we have then had to provide evidence as to why the price increase is incorrect and so should not be paid. We then have to wait for the invoice to be re-issued. This process can take time and we would not want to lose our licence because of the error of another party.

c) Local Authorities sometimes issue duplicate invoices and this creates confusion over what has and what has not been paid.

Put another way, we have direct experience of situations where there has been an error by the Licensing Authority which has caused delay in being able to make payment of the correct fee. It would be extremely inequitable if the operators of restaurants or bars and clubs etc. were penalized through no fault of their own.

121 – Licensing Policy Statements

We consider it would be more practical to extend the time period that Local Authorities have to review their licensing policy statements from three to five years. This would allow for certainty as well as time to establish workable trading procedures and would also reduce red tape.

123 – Review of Effect of Amendments on Licensing Scheme

We consider that a three year review would be a good thing and such a review would hopefully provide evidence as to whether the changes made under the Bill were either successful or unsuccessful.

124 – Late Night Levy Requirement

We concur with the comments of the BBPA and Poppleston Allen.

Our main 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? The same concern applies to country pubs that may wish to trade late but have no problem of crime or disorder. In these circumstances, Licensees paying the levy may never see the Police Officers that it is used to employ.

January 2011