Graham Cushion, partner at specialist licensing solicitors Poppleston Allen, points out that over the past few years, CCTV and security systems have become far more commonplace in pubs. Moreover, outdoor areas and alfresco dining becoming the norm has meant operators need to expand their field of vision and are consequently subject to more security stipulations.
“CCTV and security systems are almost always insisted upon by the police as part and parcel of any licensing application that’s made,” he explains. “It’s a real par-for-the-course requirement these days. Obviously, the conditions themselves are becoming more detailed and more sophisticated in terms of the spec of the systems they’re requiring.
“With the prevalence of outside areas in pubs and restaurants, both because of visibility on the high street and people wanting to eat outside, systems will be required more and more to cover external spaces as well as internal ones.
“There should be signage up saying that CCTV is in operation, ‘smile you’re on camera’, whatever it may be. People are entitled to know that they’re being recorded.”
What standards need to be met?
“I wouldn’t say there are any universally applicable minimum requirements,” Cushion explains.
“The thing about licensing is that because it’s all governed at a local authority and local police force level, there will be nuances from force to force, and from area to area.
“The essence of it is that it should be a good quality system that covers all areas to which the public has access and that footage is retained for between 28 and 31 days for evidential purposes.
“Those are broad brush guidelines, but there are little quirks and details from authority to authority.”
According to Cushion, publicans face strong consequences if licensing conditions around CCTV and security systems aren’t met.
“You can have problems if your CCTV isn’t up to scratch, if you’ve got a very specific CCTV condition that requires a certain specification or, as some of the older conditions require, that it’s to the satisfaction of the police,” he explains.
“If on any of those measurements it’s not good enough, you can be threatened with review, prosecuted for breaching your licence conditions and, on occasion, we have police serving closure notices on premises giving them seven days to sort out their CCTV otherwise they’ll get a closure order.”
“CCTV is not a tick-box exercise. People who run pubs need to know how the system works so that if a police officer comes looking for footage they’re able to download it.
“Operators need to be conducting regular checks to make sure that the system is working properly, that it’s showing the correct date and time, that cameras haven’t been moved by cleaners, decorators or contractors, so that you still have the full coverage.
“Don’t just think ‘we’ve had the engineers install the system’ and wash your hands of it. A bit of ownership is a good idea. Publicans need to make sure that it works properly and continues to comply with any conditions on the licence.”
According to Martin Thomas, managing director of Innstay UK, which provides EPoS, music and security systems to pubs, the most significant recent development in pub security has been the availability of remotely monitored, high-definition cameras at lower price points.
Access to great technology
“Years ago, such sophisticated systems would only be used in premium outlets with high capex spends but now all venues have access to this great technology,” says Thomas. As an example, he highlights the fact that Innstay offers a CCTV system for as little as £15 per week in rent.
“This basic package includes four HD cameras, the recorder and remote access via an app,” he says.
“The rental option also includes full service and maintenance throughout the life of the contract, so peace of mind for our customers if anything goes wrong.
“Before we commit to any rental contract we would do a full site survey to ensure that the correct number of cameras are installed to suit the customer’s needs.”
Impact on wider business
Thomas maintains that while a high-tech remotely accessed system’s primary function is, of course, to keep a venue secure, there are far broader business benefits for a pub operator.
“The ability to monitor premises remotely is a key benefit to our customers,” he explains.
“Our high specification security systems come with a mobile app as standard, which allows owners and licensees to view their venue from anywhere in the world.
“Often owners or licensees want to look at their system to see if the venue is busy or if a certain event night is running well. is can help with further promotions. Monitoring CCTV during busy periods is also a great way of determining whether or not staffing levels are correct, for example when the football is on is the bar extra busy? Are there enough staff to cope?
“We often get asked to install cameras near to EPoS and stock areas, this is purely to keep an eye on both cash and stock levels to prevent crime either by staff or members of the public.
We do have customers who use the system to monitor staffing levels as opposed to individual members of staff.
No need to be intrusive
Asked whether or not more visible security and CCTV systems have a negative impact on a pub’s aesthetic, its staff and customers, Thomas explains: “There are a wide variety of camera sizes available that do not need to be garish or in your face. at being said most premises want people to be aware that there are cameras installed.
“This deters criminals and can lead to customers feeling a little more safe. We offer a full internet protocol camera solution that significantly reduces the amount of cable required on installation of the camera, this can help with the aesthetics of the premises.
“Staff education and staff vigilance are both necessary to ensuring a site remains as secure as possible. It is also a great idea to team up with other local pubs and share common knowledge of known criminals or scams that may be going on in the area, again this leads back to education and communication.”