JD Wetherspoon fails in bid to cut hours at Newcastle pubs ahead of late-night levy

By James Wallin, M&C Report

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Late-night levy, Nottingham, Public house

Wetherspoon's is considering whether to appeal the decision
Wetherspoon's is considering whether to appeal the decision
Newcastle City Council has refused JD Wetherspoon’s attempt to dodge the city’s late-night levy by cutting back its hours at three pubs.

The managed pub operator is now considering whether to appeal the decision.

Wetherspoon’s had sought permission to close at midnight to avoid paying the levy but the move sparked opposition from the council and police.

At last night’s meeting the council’s licensing sub-committee confirmed that its determination had to be consistent with the advice given to other operators against such applications, whilst raising concerns over the reinstatement of any hours post levy.

Wetherspoon's spokesman Eddie Gershon said: “We are disappointed with the decision.

“We will consider whether to appeal the decision in the next few days.”

Newcastle City Council was the first local authority to approve plans for a late-night levy in June last year.

Earlier this month, Nottingham City Council's licensing committee agreed to vary the licence of Wetherspoon's pub the Company Inn in Castle Wharf to remove authorisation to sell alcohol after midnight for as long as a late-night levy is enforced.

The variation was granted on the condition that if a levy is withdrawn in the city, JDW would have to give 28 days’ notice to police before its original 2am licence can be restored.

Related topics: Licensing law, Health & safety

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We've been here before

Posted by david,

I'm certainly not trying to justify the decision, but based on the police's argument in Nottingham, I think it's important to understand that the objection to the variation is NOT to do with the reduction but the preservation of the original hours as soon as (if and when) the LNL falls away.

In other words JDW are making it pretty clear the variation application is about avoiding the late night levy, and the LA are saying: "Too clever by half".

It's therefore got absolutely nothing to do with licensing objectives and all that stuff - it's just a shrewd operator versus money grabbing council with antlers locked.

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Ridiculous decision by Newcastle

Posted by Ian Jarmaine,

This decision by Newcastle appears to be nonsense. I believe a Minor Variation could be used to reduce hours. This is an extract from a gov.uk web page:
https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/98157/guidance.pdf

The Minor Variations process cannot be used to:

add the retail or supply of alcohol to a licence

extend licensing hours for the sale or supply of alcohol at any time between 11pm and 7am;

It does not say it could not be used to reduce hours! Presumably no Relevant Authority would object to a reduction in hours as that could not have an impact on the Licensing Objectives.

Yet again this is about money raising.

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Is this legal?

Posted by John P. Graham,

Maybe I'm not living in the real world but I fail to see how Newcastle City Council can legally enforce JDW to pay for a LNL they will not be using. I see that JDW "sought permission" to close earlier than the later times granted by their premises licences at their three pubs but I know of at least four pubs; albeit not in Newcastle but in London where they close earlier when there is no trade about and this has never been a problem; nor did they have to "seek permission" to do so. Also as to why any police authority should object to earlier closing is beyond me. I would have thought that Newcastle police would have been glad to see a reduction in hours in three of their area's largest pubs judging by the constant whinging and whining by numerous police forces about extended trading hours in busy city centres nationwide!

As P. Killin says this is definitely a case of the "World Gone Mad".

To Tim Martin I also endorse Mr Killin's suggestion to take this to the European Court of Justice. As a company of substantial financial standing you can afford to go down this route and hopefully this charge may be overruled as being unlawful. Win or lose, the costs you as a commercial organisation would incur in compiling and putting forward such case would be allowed to be offset against your profits by HMRC so do give Newcastle City Council a run for their money and stupidness!

John P. Graham
Hampstead Village NW3

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