Peter Coulson believes Westminster is abusing new laws

By Peter Coulson - legal column

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Licensing act London City of london City of westminster

I am genuinely beginning to believe that the licensing administrators at Westminster City Council are not of this world. Last week I received the...

I am genuinely beginning to believe that the licensing administrators at Westminster City Council are not of this world.

Last week I received the first licence they have issued to me since the end of transition, back-dated, I might say, to 30 September. What did it say?

l That children under 14 were not allowed in the bars

l That credit sales were illegal.

Now, some of you may remember that the Licensing Act 1964 was repealed on 24 November last year. Under that Act, it is true, the above statements were correct.

Not any more.

Children under 14 are allowed in the bar, if they are accompanied by an adult. Credit sales are no longer illegal, any more than serving prostitutes or giving a bar of chocolate to a policeman. Those restrictions have been abolished. The Licensing Act 2003 has taken over.

But Westminster has this strange, other-worldly view, reinforced by what they claim to be expert legal advice, which tells them that there are a whole group of inherited restrictions that they can ship in from the old Licensing Act and keep alive on a support system at City Hall, when nobody else in the whole country believes it.

In Westminster, presumably, there is still 20 minutes drinking-up time, persons under 18 are not to be employed in bars, the name of the licence holder has to be affixed to the outside of the front entrance and magistrates' courts are not allowed to be held in the premises.

Similarly, presumably, the right of a licensee to open his premises for 24 hours (which he enjoyed under the Licensing Act 1964, as long as he only sold alcohol during the permitted hours) is also preserved?

Oh no! Surprisingly, that right has been removed.

The hours the premises are open to the public has been limited, even on a straight conversion. Westminster thinks that you should not be allowed to have people on your premises before 9am and around half an hour after you have rung up the last sale.

They are re-introducing closing times, which last existed in the 1890s (which is an era, methinks, in which many of them are still languishing).

There are now more than 400 licensing appeals waiting to be heard at Horseferry Road Magistrates Court. Why? Because the licensed trade in London is utterly sick and tired of Westminster Council trying to write its own laws. It is time the Government, in the rather woolly shape of the DCMS, did something about this travesty and told them to toe the line.

Related topics Training

Property of the week


£ 60,000 - Leasehold

Busy location on coastal main road Extensively renovated detached public house Five trade areas (100)  Sizeable refurbished 4-5 bedroom accommodation Newly created beer garden (125) Established and popular business...

Follow us

Pub Trade Guides

View more