Licensing Act “may be hampering live music performances”

May 14, 2009 at 3:08 pm Leave a comment

The 2003 Licensing Act should be amended, the Commons Culture, Media and Sport committee has reported.

It has made recommendations to improve the legislation in areas such as the performance of live music, the licensing of sporting and not-for-profit clubs and the process of licensing lap dancing clubs.

The report recommends that the government should exempt venues with a capacity of 200 persons or fewer from the need to obtain a licence for the performance of live music.

It also recommends the reintroduction of the two-in-a-bar exemption, enabling venues of any size to put on a performance of non-amplified music by one or two musicians.

With specific regard to London, the committee said they were “convinced” by the evidence presented by Feargal Sharkey, that police authorities are taking an increasingly authoritarian approach.

The Metropolitan Police have asked London licensing authorities to include new conditions for the performance of live music “in the interests of public order and the prevention of terrorism”, as set out in their Promotion and Event Assessment Form (form 696).

The report concludes that form 696 goes beyond the Act and its guidance to impose unreasonable conditions on events and recommends that it should be scrapped.

The Act’s effect on sporting clubs was also examined.

They face the same licensing costs as commercial concerns such as pubs and nightclubs.

The committee recommends that sporting clubs should be place in a fee band based on 20 per cent of their rateable value.

The 2003 Act, which liberalised opening hours for pubs and clubs, was supposed to create a “wider consumer choice” of late-night venues and encourage a so-called “cafe culture.”

The committee “remains concerned that the relaxation of rules on premises’ closing hours have not diminished law and order problems, but have merely moved them one or two hours later than previously.”

The MPs said it is their view that “lap dancing establishments” are not the same as a pub or nightclub, and interested parties with legitimate concerns should to be able to make representations to the licensing authorities without having to resort to making spurious objections.

“For this reason the report welcomes the Government’s proposal, contained within the Policing and Crime Bill, to move licensing of lap dancing to the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act.

“However, it recommends that a new category should be created for such clubs, to take account of their hybrid status, and that it should be compulsory for local councils to use this system to licence them. that existing clubs with valid premises licences should be given a reasonable transition period in which to transfer to the new licensing regime.

“The report further recommends that licences for such clubs should be granted for a period of five years, with the safeguard that any interested party or relevant authority should be able to request a review of a licence at any time.”

John Whittingdale MP, chair of the committee, said:

“Broadly speaking the Licensing Act has in our view been a success.

“The Act has simplified the licensing system, bringing together a number of different regimes into one licence.

“There is also a greater diversity of premises on the high street and the Act’s emphasis on partnership working is welcome.

“However in some areas it is clearly not working. The licensing requirements are still too bureaucratic and costly – particularly for non-commercial groups such as sports clubs, not-for-profit establishments and organisers of occasional events.

“We were also particularly concerned to hear of the way the Act may be hampering live music performances especially by young musicians, who often get their first break though performing live at small venues such as pubs.

“Our report calls on the Government to relax restrictions in this area, which in some cases are unnecessarily draconian, and in others simply absurd.”

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