BrewDog case shows how pubs can attain licences or extensions in cumulative impact zones

By Poppleston Allen

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Cumulative impact Customer License

Specialist: The judge distinguished the BrewDog operation from the existing clubs and bars in and around the Corn Exchange
Specialist: The judge distinguished the BrewDog operation from the existing clubs and bars in and around the Corn Exchange
Readers may have seen the Publican’s Morning Advertiser news article on 20 September regarding BrewDog in Leeds. BrewDog is a specialist craft brewery that does things differently. Leeds City Council rejected an application to grant them a new premises licence in the Corn Exchange area of Leeds, an area covered by a cumulative impact policy.

On appeal the district judge refused to follow the council policy and granted the application. The decision is a rare victory and a ray of light for operators considering new premises or extensions in areas covered by impact policies.

Cumulative impact zones are areas where local authorities believe the number of licensed premises has had a detrimental effect on the licensing objectives to the extent that there will be a presumption of refusal on applications in the area. Commonly within these zones, the local authority’s policy will be to refuse new applications or variations to extend hours where alcohol is supplied or regulated entertainment permitted. We are seeing increasing numbers of cumulative impact zones nationwide.

Businesses within cumulative impact zones, which already have licences, often agree with stress policies as they protect their businesses by preventing possible competitors.

The detrimental effect of cumulative impact policies is that they can stifle innovation, new concepts and prevent proper development of the late-night economy.

The BrewDog case highlights how operators can achieve grants of new applications or extensions within cumulative impact zones.

BrewDog is a Scottish company specialising in draught beers; the district judge in the case referred to their customers as “alcohol geeks” and BrewDog provides books on brewing and invites customers to watch instructional videos playing at their premises.

The BrewDog application in Leeds is also in an area covered by the city’s cumulative impact policy. The judge took into consideration the fact that BrewDog has outlets in other cities within cumulative impact areas and stressed that they operate well without police objection.

He also commented that the company was intelligent, well run and in a short space of time had shown itself to be an effective operator.

In Leeds the cumulative impact relates to regulated entertainment, as well as the supply of alcohol. The district judge dismissed suggestions that there would be issues of noise and nuisance from the BrewDog bar. A letter had been circulated to all residents in the neighbouring block of flats, but had resulted in no objections.

BrewDog did not apply to provide music and the judge concluded that there was no risk of regulated entertainment noise emanating from the premises. He also considered the capacity was small and that the noise generated as people left the premises would be very marginal.

The more significant objection was from the police on the potential impact of another premises on the levels of crime in the area. The judge distinguished the BrewDog operation from the existing clubs and bars in and around the Corn Exchange.

BrewDog wanted different hours, had different marketing operations and attracted a different type of customer. BrewDog serves expensive beers in expensive measures and the judge decided that it would not attract “getting it down your neck” drinkers but rather well-heeled customers instead.

The police acknowledged that BrewDog’s customers were unlikely to be the cause of crime and disorder, but expressed concern at the rise in footfall in the area. They were also concerned that BrewDog customers would be victims of crime.

The judge accepted that the type of clientele the premises attract has a material part to play in the decision. He was not concerned with the BrewDog clientele, he did not believe they would have an adverse impact on the licensing objectives in Leeds and he was impressed by the operation of BrewDog’s bars elsewhere.

 In granting the application the judge stated that “it cannot be the intention of the cumulative impact policy to bring the iron curtain clanging down” on good operators, and Leeds City Council and the police had applied the policy too rigidly.

Operators considering new applications and variations within cumulative impact zones can learn from the BrewDog experience.

A history of operating well run, compliant and trouble-free premises and good relations with both your neighbours and the authorities can help achieve a successful grant. Being different to other operators in the area where the application is made can also help your case.

When making an application, always try and engage with the police, the responsible authorities and your neighbours before you submit the application. Meet with them, describe your proposals and listen to what they have to say. The earlier you can engage them the better.

Related topics Licensing law

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