Small pubs still a nuisance

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Related tags: Licence, License

Following on from my piece last week about the review of a licence, I have found out that the licensee in question was using the 'small premises'...

Following on from my piece last week about the review of a licence, I have found out that the licensee in question was using the 'small premises' provisions of the Licensing Act, which applies to pubs with a capacity of not more than 200. This section limits the powers of the council to impose conditions relating to public nuisance, which is intriguing. Apparently a condition existed concerning the audibility of music, but by virtue of this section it was unenforceable.

So the review of the licence in Norwich was doubly important, because it brought the condition into effect. The review committee included a statement disapplying section 177, and as a result conditions on public nuisance were validated on the licence. Any more major disturbances could result either in the loss of the licence or in a prosecution for breach of licence conditions.

This section was included in the act at the last moment by the Government as a sop to those who were campaigning for the "two-in-a-bar" rule to be retained. It didn't replicate the old law, but it gave a partial exemption to small pubs and meant they could run small scale unamplified live music virtually without conditions, and amplified live music with the nuisance factor removed.

But the section only applied where pubs toed the line. If they created a situation where the licence was reviewed, then the committee could bring in their full condition-making powers unbound by the size of the pub.

So, from the legal perspective this was an interesting decision. And just to set the record straight for those "regulars" on the MA website, the complainant had lived in the adjoining flat for nine years and said in his statement that there had been no trouble at all until last year. It would have made no difference in legal terms if he had moved in last week. The law, unfortunately, is not that first-come is first-served. The fact that no-one has been disturbed by your music prior to the building of the old people's home next door will not avail you in court or in the council chamber. If they move in, and immediately complain, they still have a right to be heard.

That is why licensees are advised to be on their guard against new developments and new neighbours. Watch out for planning application notices in the immediate vicinity and make your views known to the council at that stage. You might be able to head off a potential disaster!

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