Ever since the Licensing Act 2003 came into force the job of regulation of the sale of alcohol has been carried out by the City Council. The Council must have a "Statement of Licensing Policy" setting out its approach and this is published on the Westminster Council website. At least once every 5 years the Council must review its policy to take into account current issues and proposed revisions.
The policy was last revised in 2011. Since that time, various issues have emerged and there is now a new Review. The Council is at present consulting on the proposed changes to its current licensing policy proposed by that Review. Residents and other interested parties have until 15th May to put in their submissions on these proposals.
Some of the proposed revisions apply only to "Stress Areas" within Westminster. The Association has only one of these within it's boundaries, the Edgware Road Stress Area. The Council is however also reviewing these and is looking for submissions on changes to the current Stress Area boundaries. In a Stress Area the Council will not normally entertain an application to grant a new licence or extend the hours of an existing one on the basis of cumulative impact; on the ground that there are probably too many licensed premises in the area already.
This policy does not normally apply to restaurants as their impact is felt to be less onerous on residents. However restaurants, in or outside Stress Areas, are not always less troublesome than bars. They can be equally disruptive to residential neighbourhoods with late night customers entering and leaving the premises, servicing in the small hours, noisy outside eating and other activities.
Neither does the Stress Area policy apply to a range of premises wishing to sell alcohol which are neither pubs, bars, or restaurants. These could be cafes, or delicatessens, or premises with other retail or service uses which may not involve the provision of food at all. Westminster is seeing an increasing number of applications from such outlets and fears an increasing nuisance from this direction unless it is controlled.
There is also concern about the possible future threat posed by the so called "24 hour economy". All night tube trains commence this September and this may well be seen as an excuse for licensees to apply for future licence extensions on the ground that there will then be a need from people coming into London late at night. There is however equally a need for residents to be able to sleep at night.The Council whilst aware of the potential problem wishes to wait and see what happens rather than propose any immediate changes to licensing policy. We feel that active controls on this should be put in the policy now.
These are some of the issues raised in the Review but there are a number of others. Most of the Council proposals are supported by the Association and by many of the other Westminster amenity societies. We are accordingly drafting a response to the matters detailed above and the other questions raised in the Review. We would also urge any members that have licensing related issues to read the Review and perhaps make their own submissions. You may wish to add support to some of Review's objectives or put in other suggestions for further controls not mentioned in the Review such as on drinking outside licensed premises.
The Consultation can be accessed here:
Policy Review of Statement Licensing Policy 2015 Consultation
or posted to:
Licensing Policy & Strategy Manager,
Westminster City Council,
11th Floor City Hall,
64 Victoria Street,
London SW1E 6QP.
The closing date for the consultation is 15th May 2015.