The following from Hamish Birchall
The Licensing Bill was ratified in the Commons yesterday (Tuesday 08 July) and should receive Royal Assent by the end of this week. It will be published as the Licensing Act 2003 next week.
Read the debate: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200203/cmhansrd/cm030708/debtext/30708-67.htm#30708-67_head0
There are some good speeches.
Sadly, this means the Joint Committee on Human Rights will not be able to further consider the Act. They did not meet last Monday, due to the fact that there were insufficient members present to constitute a quorum.
Featured live music in pubs and bars using any amplification at all remains illegal unless licensed, and still subject to potentially onerous conditions, although these may be partially alleviated via the small venues concession (see 'small venues - licence conditions concession' below). Unamplified live music in pubs and bars remains illegal unless licensed, but it does seem that any potentially onerous conditions that might otherwise relate to this category of live performance will be suspended where the small venues concession applies (also see below).
This is all the result of a last minute Government amendment of an amendment and is extremely complex. I would urge anyone with queries to contact Dominic Tambling at the Department for Culture on 020 7211 6351.
Clear Guidance for local authorities may militate against onerous conditions, but then again it may not. Local authorities tend to be very sure about what constitutes a 'necessary' condition. The only means to challenge a disputed condition - an appeal to magistrates, or judicial review - is costly and very time consuming, and likely to be beyond the means of smaller businesses.
Small venues - licence conditions concession
This is my best shot at a summary - but contact the DCMS on the number above for clarification:
In all cases, to qualify for the concession, the permitted capacity must be 200 or fewer and a premises licence must already be in force authorising 'music entertainment'.
Music entertainment means the performance of live music or performance of dance.
The amendment also makes a key distinction between places used primarily for the consumption of alcohol and those that are not:
Premises used primarily for the supply of alcohol for consumption on the premises This effectively means bars and pubs. The definition excludes restaurants, for example, libraries and hospitals, and any number of other potential venues for public performance.
If the bars or pubs qualify on the other criteria, and they provide performances of live amplified music, licence conditions relating to noise or the protection of children from harm will 'not have effect' initially. They would have effect, however, if problems or complaints led to a review of the licence. The suspension of noise and protection of harm conditions would apply whenever such premises are open and providing the live music. This could be round the clock. However, safety and crime and disorder conditions would apply at all times.
If such premises provide solely unamplified live music at any time between 8am and midnight, and they are not being used for the provision of any other description of regulated entertainment, then it seems any licence condition that would otherwise relate to the performance will be suspended (subject to review as above).
At other qualifying places such as restaurants, libraries, hospitals, public spaces, your front garden and so on, the wider unamplified concession applies, but if such places wish to provide amplified live music at any time, or unamplified music between midnight and 8am they will be subject to the full range of licence conditions. Local authorities would also seem to be able to impose any condition that did not relate directly to the provision of the music entertainment, but which they could argue was 'necessary' to achieve any of the four licensing objectives.
Noise conditions inconsistent
Bars and pubs that open after midnight, particularly in towns and cities, are a major source of local residents' complaints, mostly about noisy people, but also noise breakout from within premises. And yet under the terms of the amendment they are exempt from noise conditions at any time (subject to review). By contrast, other places which may not sell any alcohol, and are not commonly associated with neighbour complaint, or anti-social behaviour, are subject to noise conditions after midnight.
What does it mean in practice?
As now, where pubs and bars are concerned, local authorities will be empowered to impose any condition relating to the provision of live music, amplified or not, which they consider 'necessary' for public safety and crime and disorder. If local authorities argue, as they have consistently in the past, that because live music attracts more people than usual the installation of more toilets is necessary (public safety), or door supervisors are needed (crime and disorder), the only way for the licence applicant to challenge the conditions will be via appeal to the Magistrates court, or application for judicial review to the High Court. Both routes are are potentially costly and risky for the applicant, and likely to be beyond the means of smaller businesses. The delay between lodging an appeal and the hearing date can be months. And while licence conditions pertaining to regulate entertainment are in dispute the licensee must refrain from providing the entertainment, or implement the condition.
None of this palaver applies, of course, to activities that are not licensable - such as the provision of big screen broadcast entertainment.
In places not primarily used for the supply and consumption of alcohol and where completely unamplified live music is provided, the suspension of all licence conditions does represent a significant concession. In practice, however, it will benefit a relatively small proportion of performers.