We are a group of Hackney residents who believe that Hackney is the most exciting borough in the greatest city in the world.
In December 2017, hundreds of us took part in Hackney Council’s consultation on a new licensing policy for the borough.
The results were overwhelming. 75% of Hackney residents said they were opposed to the council’s plans for a clamp down on the borough’s night time economy. This included:
● 77% against doubling the size of the Shoreditch “Special Policy Area”, where new licensed venues are effectively banned;
● 84% against expecting new bars close at 11pm on weekdays and midnight at weekends, anywhere in the borough; and
● 75% against closing new outside areas at 10pm, across the borough.
Despite this, Hackney’s councillors unanimously voted through the plans on 18th July 2018, prompting a huge backlash.
You can read our open letter to councillors on the eve of the vote, here.
Hackney’s proposed plans are a gift to big corporates. By forcing up the value of a license, they will leave an area like Shoreditch as sterile and soulless as Leicester Square, pushing out anyone without deep pockets.
We have over 4000 supporters – local people taking a stand to keep Hackney diverse, independent and fun. Sign up now to back our campaign and help persuade the Council to back down for good.
We want to support Hackney’s culturally diverse, independent night time economy – and to defend the fun, vibrant borough that we love.
Hackney’s policies, and our response to them, are set out below.
Hackney’s policy: Double the size of the Shoreditch “Special Policy Area” (SPA)
• The extension of the Shoreditch SPA will be a disaster for Shoreditch. It has already resulted in the stagnation of the night time economy in the area and puts Shoreditch’s reputation for fun, innovative and diverse venues at risk.
• In every consultation, large majorities of Hackney residents and businesses have rejected the SPA. Younger people are particularly concerned about a clampdown on new venues. Where there is an SPA in place, new ideas and businesses cannot break in
• Restricting the ability of the Council to support and encourage well-managed new venues will have a negative impact on achieving the licensing objectives.
• The changes will send the value of existing licenses in Shoreditch skyrocketing. This will create an incentive to sell licenses to large chains with the deepest pockets, freezing out new and independent operators.
• If the SPA remains, it’s sensible to remove the assumption that applications will be refused except in exceptional circumstances. This will give the council greater flexibility to support high quality applications.
Hackney’s policy: Maintain the Dalston “Special Policy Area” (SPA)
• The concept of an SPA is a blunt tool for managing the night time economy, and should be abandoned to allow new, diverse and next generation creative operators to thrive. An SPA supports and maintains the status quo and inevitably results in stagnation.
• The Police previously stated that “the ‘coolness’ of the area is no longer so apparent. Many operators complain of a reduction in footfall of around 20% and some have intimated a return to the ‘bad old days’ of Dalston”. This demonstrates how the SPA is directly undermining the licensing objectives by killing off the best venues and allowing the poorly managed sites to remain in place because there is no new competition.
• Large majorities of Hackney residents and businesses have rejected the SPA every time the Council has consulted on it
• If the SPA is to be retained, the removal of acceptable hours is welcome. It’s particularly good news that the Council is no longer saying that music and dance venues are “not considered appropriate”.
Hackney’s policy: All applicants must consider “the locality and context around their premises”, and all applicants must ensure that applications “reflect the Council’s aspiration to diversify the offer, whilst at the same time promoting the licensing objectives”.
• Good operators will always want to understand the nature of the area and community that they are a part of.
• “Diversity” is good as a general principle. However, many of the other changes in this licensing policy will prevent rather than promote diversity. Specifically, the extension of the Shoreditch SPA, the introduction of “core hours”, and preventing outside activities after 10pm will inevitably undermine the innovation and creativity that Hackney is known for.
Hackney’s policy: “Generally acceptable” hours for licensed premises will be Monday to Thursday 8am to 11pm; Friday and Saturday 8am to midnight; Sunday 10am to 10:30pm.
• In the most creative borough in the world’s greatest 24 hour city, it is laughable to expect people to go home at 11pm during the week and midnight at weekends. Laws limiting hours to that extent were first brought in during WWI but eventually removed by the Licensing Act 2003. The UK has moved on but the Council is now proposing to take us back a century.
• Expecting venues to close early will push people into drinking in to unregulated environments, undermining the licensing objectives.
• The Council should treat people like adults – letting people choose when they drink will encourage responsible drinking. It’s well known that the old days of last orders encouraged people to drink more, earlier in the evening and around closing time, undermining the licensing objectives.
• “Core hours” will focus additional pressure on public services at closing time, undermining the licensing objective to prevent public nuisance.
• “Core hours” will have a chilling effect on innovation – a better approach would be to take each application on its merits allowing the Council to encourage diverse applications from high quality operators.
Hackney’s policy: Generally restrict external areas and outdoor activity to between 8am and 10pm
• This will unreasonably restrict those who offer an alternative to bars and clubs (for example, night markets)
• The provision is vague and will deter good operators. It’s not clear, for example, whether smoking areas would be included.
• There are plenty of examples of outside spaces that operate after 10pm without detracting from the licensing objectives. Considering these spaces on a case-by-case basis will better support the licensing objectives.