Councillors voted unanimously on limits for new licensed venues in July, sparking criticism that young people working in the night-time economy and independent LGBTQ+ venues had been overlooked.
Residents’ group We Love Hackney was granted a judicial review of the policy, which will determine whether policymakers failed to consider a public sector equality duty.
It believes the decision contravened the Equality Act and councillors were not given sufficient information regarding the impact on diversity in the borough.
Under the revised Statement of Licensing Policy (SLP), new venues must close at 11pm on weekdays and midnight on weekends, with outside drinking banned after 10pm. Operators can apply for extensions if they can prove longer hours would not disrupt the area.
Opponents of the policy argued this would lead to the area’s night-time economy stagnating.
Some 84% of residents said they opposed the measures in a consultation by the east London council.
A hearing taking place today (Wednesday 27 March) will re-examine whether or not to grant the group a Cost Capping Order (CCO).
Campaigners said they need this to protect them against the possibility of paying expensive legal bills if they lose the judicial review challenge.
The group has crowdfunded more than £20,000 to cover legal costs so far and said its lawyers estimated it needed up to £53,000.
In a message to supporters, the group said it was keen to challenge the council.
“So far, Hackney [Council] has spent much more than it needs to in an effort to scare us off. But we’re not backing down in the face of these aggressive tactics,” it said.
“Anyone should be able to challenge a council decision, regardless of whether they have deep pockets.
“If a clampdown on nightlife can happen in Hackney, it can happen anywhere. Together, let’s show that local people value our local nightlife and won’t give up without a fight.”
Public equality duty
Anna Dews, solicitor at law firm Leigh Day, said: “This is the first judicial review of a Statement of Licensing Policy by reference to the public sector equality duty, and we are delighted that our clients have been granted permission.
“However, as a not-for-profit organisation, bringing this novel, public interest litigation on behalf of the wider community, it is vital that their costs are capped to minimise the risks of paying unaffordable legal bills if they lose.
“Our client has made it clear that without the benefit of a costs capping order, they will have no choice but to withdraw the claim and it cannot be in the public interest for an issue such as this to be left unresolved.”
UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls reiterated her support for the campaign against the policy on Twitter.
So this is the effect of the new cumulative impact policy in Hackney - a book cafe was refused a 10.30 licence! This is why we need to support @WeLoveHackney campaign to reverse this restrictive approach https://t.co/StxhGiBDZl— Kate Nicholls (@UKHospKate) March 22, 2019
She said: “So this is the effect of the new cumulative impact policy in Hackney – a book café was refused a 10.30pm licence. This is why we need to support the We Love Hackney campaign to reverse this restrictive approach.”
A spokesperson for Hackney Council said no date had been set for the judicial review yet.