Indeed, it was always the intention in reforming licensing in 2005 to make the process more accountable and to give local businesses and residents more of a say. In any process involving people with different backgrounds, opinions, experiences and political views, there will be different approaches.
I have been involved in a couple of cases recently for the same pub client. This client has a premises in the north of England that is a hotel, which has a bar opposite attracting a young clientele, is not particularly well run, with music blaring out, customers being noisy outside and disturbing my client’s hotel residents, who have not been terribly complimentary on TripAdvisor.
This same client has a pub with a garden and recently had a function there that finished at about 9pm but with some entertainment. The latter, following a resident’s complaint, received a visit out of hours (it was a weekend) from the local authority noise enforcement officer who witnessed a statutory nuisance and (as the legislation allows) issued a noise abatement notice forthwith. There was no negotiation or indeed an attempt to deal with it in a less formal way.
In the other case, my client and I have complained to the local authority about the noisy bar but cannot – despite our best efforts – raise any interest in enforcing, largely because we are a licensed premises ourselves with hotel guests, and not local residents.
This is an example of, I suppose, the power of residents who do need to be protected, and the inconsistent approach that can happen in practice.
This can also be found in relation to licensing officers and problems at premises. In some areas, the licensing officer takes a much more laid-back approach and there is a reluctance to get involved. In another where there has never been a review, a licensing officer told me that he would see a review as a failure in that issues have become so serious that it has not been possible to resolve them.
He is proactive and will sit the parties down and try and sort matters out, seeing the review as a last resort, which indeed is what it should be. I have been involved in many reviews and they do not necessarily lead to closure for either party.
Finally, I do see consistency in relation to a third responsible authority, namely the police. Generally, a common-sense view is taken if there are incidents, but this will normally mean that certain favourite conditions have to be imposed. In most areas of England and Wales, the police will consider a licence to be deficient if it does not have as a condition at least, CCTV, refusal log, Challenge 25 (possibly Challenge 21) and incident logs. There is consistent imposition of these conditions on new licences or where there have been serious incidents throughout the country.
On the whole, I suppose that these attitudes make life more interesting albeit difficult sometimes to understand for operators with premises in different locations.
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