Supporting your ‘local’ – making licensing policy local

We want off-licences and pubs to be part of their local communities, and the responsibilities that that entails. But town centres in Streatham, Norwood, Brixton, Vauxhall and Clapham are all different and need different approaches

We are currently consulting on a new alcohol and public entertainment licensing policy here in Lambeth (pubs, clubs, late night take-aways, off licences, etc…) looking to address the problems associated with alcohol and the night time economy, without taking away Lambeth’s position as a top place to go out or stifle business who employ significantly and bring growth to the borough.

National legislation constrains us, but we are determined to make it as specific as possible to Lambeth, the neighbourhood and the area in which they are operating because they have an impact on their surroundings, they are part of a neighbourhood. No pub is an island.

At the moment there is little differentiation between an off licence, a pub or a night club in licensing terms. In Lambeth, we want to do this differently. We know that these premises serve and attract different clientele, have different impacts and ultimately create different atmospheres in the back streets or town centres they serve. Asking licensees to be clear about what they will be operating is a key change we want to make.

The Police, the local council and of course local communities see the impacts in different neighbourhoods. We have less problems with street drinking in areas with fewer off licences. We deal with higher levels of alcohol related violence where there are concentrations of late night pubs and clubs. Street based drug dealing is generally an issue where there are night clubs and a busy night time economy. That’s why we want to look at a whole neighbourhood and concentrations of types of venues, not just individual licences.

We recognise that times are tough for businesses and that the alcohol economy plays a major part in the economic life of Lambeth, employing people, providing places for social interaction and foot fall which allows other shops and venues to thrive. But some types of venue are simply in the wrong place. A night club catering for late night revellers may do its best to disperse a crowd, but if the surrounding area is residential the business model may well need to change or relocate.

How a business is run also makes a difference. A well run pub catering for 100 people but done responsibly can have less adverse impact than a no-holds-barred venue for 50. That’s why we are implementing tougher expectations about those who will be running the venue.

At the moment we licence the venue, not the individual who will be running it. Part time management concerned with profits over punters does nothing to create a harmonious community. Confidence in trained staff with a commitment and knowledge of the area, as well as proactive engagement and relations with local residents is a must in our new proposal.

Early feedback and some of the initial research leading into the proposed timings for town centres and high streets reveal different desires. In Streatham and Norwood local businesses and communities want the growth of the evening time economy, not necessarily the late night / early morning. In Clapham there is a strong resident feel to reduce the overall size and the hours of night clubs and vertical drinking establishments because of the problems they are currently suffering. In most areas the proliferation of late night off- licences is seen to be encouraging street drinking and aggressive begging, something which cafes and bars say is a problem as much if not more than local residents.

If you live, work or socialise in Lambeth please have a look at our draft proposals and take 5 minutes to respond to the consultation.

The local night time economy can only stand to benefit when all its patrons are safe. So please respond to our licensing consultation by clicking here and if you want to read some of the supporting materials click here

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Author: jackhopkins

Labour Councillor for Oval ward in London Borough of Lambeth, and Cabinet Member for Jobs and Growth covering economic development, regeneration, planning and entrepreneurship. (formerly Community Safety) Interested in partnerships, training and development, social mobility and Arsenal.

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