Hackney’s hospitality heavyweights have accused councillors of treating residents as if they are “stupid” as a campaign against the Town Hall’s draft licensing policy gathers pace.
The criticism comes after the council released a statement entitled ‘Hackney will not be closing at midnight’ which seeks to explain what proposals for a borough-wide, 12 midnight cut-off for new bars or pubs “really mean”.
In the statement, the council’s Licensing Chair Councillor Emma Plouviez said: “In no way are these policy changes aimed at allowing us to make all venues close at midnight; not now, or in the future.”
But a group of bar owners and restauranteurs who have mobilised against the planned changes with a campaign called We Love Hackney are unconvinced.
Dan Beaumont, who runs a clutch of late night Dalston venues told the Hackney Citizen: “It is disappointing that Hackney assume that their own residents are too stupid to understand the proposed policy.
“Part of the consultation process should really be about them listening to concerns rather than dismissing them out of hand in this way.
Restauranteur Jonathan Downey said: “They are committed to stopping any new bars, clubs, music venues and hotels opening after midnight Friday and Saturday across the borough, full stop.
“One or two very well-funded applications may batter through each year but that will be it.”
Still considered ‘case-by-case’
In the statement Cllr Plouviez said that “with the balance currently firmly in favour of businesses” the existing regulation means it is difficult to make decisions based on what is best for the area.
She said claims the council want to impose a “blanket ban” on new licenses are “not true” and licenses will still be considered on a “case-by-case basis”.
Responding to criticism that an early draft of the licensing proposals had a grid in which nightclubs and dance venues were marked as “Not Considered Appropriate”, Cllr Plouviez said this was merely “jargon”.
“It does not mean that we won’t grant licenses for those types of venues, it’s just the jargon used in licensing regulation which means the balance does not automatically favour the applicant and gives other people more of a say,” she added.
But Chairman of the Night Time Industries Association (NTIA) Alan Miller said the statement was contradictory: “It is weird, to say the least, that they are using licensing objectives to say something is ‘not considered appropriate’ and now they have changed it but retained all the underlying assumptions.
“They still want to have a case-by-case approach then why are they looking for a borough-wide closing time? It is an inherent contradiction and I wonder why, rather than digging their heels in, why don’t they see this positive opportunity to work with the stakeholders?”
The licensing consultation runs until 14 August 2015./ 16 July, 2015