Legal Q & A: Closure notice and neighbour issues

By Poppleston Allen

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Legal Q & A: Closure notice and neighbour issues

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This week's legal Q & A looks at a closure order and a complaint from a new neighbour.

Appeal against decision

Q​: I run a busy town centre nightclub. A couple of months ago there was an incident just outside our premises where someone was stabbed.

The police were called and it was dealt with professionally from the club’s perspective. The police then applied to magistrates for a closure order but magistrates did not grant it saying that the incident had nothing to do with the management of our premises. A few weeks later the police applied for a review of our premises licence and although we had agreed some conditions with the police beforehand, the licensing committee cut back our terminal hour by two hours! This will kill our business. What can I do?

A: It seems you have little choice but to appeal against the decision the licensing committee made. This must be done within 21 days of the committee’s decision being notified to you in writing.

The process is long and will be costly. It nonetheless provides you with an opportunity to run the club well in the meantime as when magistrates make their decision they are able to take into account fresh evidence from the period between the review hearing and the appeal.

Assuming you have no incidents of note, it may be possible to put pressure on the local authority to agree a compromise deal, especially since the police were not asking for the reduced terminal hour. It can be pointed out to the local authority they may be at risk of a costs award against them if they lose the appeal.

Should the matter proceed all the way to a hearing, it will take a few days in court to deal with the matter, and you and any relevant staff members will need to be ready to give evidence. Instruct a good lawyer to deal with this on your behalf.

New neighbours’ complaint

Q​: I run a pub in a rural location and every Saturday night we have a live band, which results in the premises becoming very busy.

Some residents have moved in next door and have started complaining about noise from these events. We have tried talking to them but they have said that they simply want our premises to close.

We have also been contacted by our local environmental health officer (EHO), who is threatening to issue a noise abatement notice (NAN). What should we do?

A: Act quickly to try and arrive at a solution which both works for your business and also results in the local residents not being disturbed.

Once a NAN is served, you will be at risk of prosecution for breaching it in the event that there are further problems. You have a right of appeal within 21 days of service of the notice and you should seek immediate legal advice if one lands. The grounds for appealing a notice are quite narrow, but it may provide some leverage in negotiations with the EHO.

You may also be at risk of a review of the premises licence either by the local residents themselves or through the EHO.

The best thing to do is try to agree some measure to alleviate any noise breakout on these events. Some EHOs will give pro-active advice in an attempt to resolve issues but others will simply leave it to you to sort it out. Should the latter happen then you may need to engage the services of an acoustic consultant to advise you on the necessary measures to be taken in order to alleviate the problems.

Both reviews and any dealings with a NAN can become very costly from a legal perspective so it is imperative to try to nip the problem in the bud.

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