Westminster City Council has hinted that it might support
an entertainment licensing exemption for gigs up to 100 capacity, but
only if unamplified, and only in premises already licensed for alcohol.
The revelation follows publication yesterday by the Culture Committee
of submissions into their Licensing Act inquiry:
The 54 documents come from a wide range of organisations and individuals,
including the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO), the Local Government
Association (LGA), the Musicians Union, Jazz Services, Equity, the Magistrates
Association, CAMRA, Alcohol Concern, the British Beer and Pub Association,
and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport itself.
As a self-selecting group, it is unsurprising that the majority of those
that address the impact of the Act on live music conclude that the legislation
is harmful and recommend deregulation in one form or another. Perhaps
surprisingly, however, some local authority officers share that view:
'The recent Live Music Forum report highlights the problems experienced
by the music industry since the implementation of the Act and is to be
commended,' writes Tony Bartlett, Licensing Manager at Dover District
Council. 'The poor drafting of the Act is as a result of a failure to
fully understand the activities sought to be licensed and, perversely,
a failure to understand those activities that are sought to be exempted.'
However, he also suggests the reintroduction of the two-performer exemption
- an option that few musicians could support.
Notwithstanding Feargal Sharkey's concerns expressed earlier this week
about police interference in gigs, the ACPO submission does not mention
music, focusing on alcohol-related issues.
Predictably, the LGA and Westminster City Council remain in denial: '...
we are not aware that the Act has had any significant impact, either positive
or negative, relating specifically to live music' (LGA); and 'The experience
in Westminster is that the 2003 Act, in comparison with previous regimes,
does not restrict the provision of live music in the course of promoting
the licensing objectives. (Westminster City Council).
But it is Westminster that provides an intruiging insight into the sort
of opposition faced by the government in its consideration of further
entertainment licensing exemptions for small gigs:
'Exemptions from licensing should only be considered in exceptional cases
taking into account the risks which may be associated with the failure
to promote the licensing objectives. For this reason, we believe no venue
or event should be exempted from the requirement to be licensed for musical
entertainment if it is unlicensed for the sale of alcohol, or provides
for an audience greater than 100, or uses amplified musical instruments,
or is provided outside a building. Where any exemption from the requirement
to be licensed for musical entertainment is permitted, the premises should
remain subject to review procedures in the 2003 Act, and the licensing
authority able to remove the exemption by modifying licence conditions.'