The campaign to keep Hackney happening

Hackney Council is consulting on a new licensing policy and we need your help. We have until 12th January to make your views heard.

We’re very pleased that, following a previous consultation in 2015, the Council has listened to the views of the many We Love Hackney supporters, and these new proposals are now a significant improvement on those of two years ago.

Notwithstanding these improvements, there is still a real threat to Hackney’s status as London’s most vibrant borough and we must all act now to prevent this.

The Council’s new proposals specifically include:

• extending the Shoreditch Special Policy Area (‘SPA’) where it is harder to get a license and almost impossible to get one beyond 11pm;

• introducing standard closing times of 11pm on weekdays and midnight on Friday and Saturday across the borough, making Hackney one giant SPA; and

• closing outside areas at 10pm – no new Street Feast or Dinerama.

This would all leave our borough a less diverse, less prosperous and less creative place to live.

Please help by taking five minutes to fill out the Council’s online questionnaire here.  Our views on each of these questions are set out here.


The story so far…

We are a group of Hackney residents and businesses who believe that Hackney is the most exciting borough in the greatest city in the world.

In August 2015, thousands of us we rallied to tell Hackney Council that its licensing consultation did not represent the views of all the borough’s residents. Just as the 24 hour tube arrived in London, Hackney Council wanted to take us back to opening hours of the 1980s.  They said that new clubs and music venues in Dalston were “not considered appropriate”, and wanted to stop new venues opening at all in Shoreditch.

Our response argued that the vibrant local nightlife and cultural scene is not a nuisance – but one of the reasons many of us choose to live here.  Hackney Council listened and withdrew their consultation, saying they wanted to “listen further to all voices and opinions”.

Please join our campaign and continue to show Hackney Council that we all want the same thing – a vibrant, sustainable, thriving place to live and work.


The Facts

Hackney Council’s online questionnaire on a new licensing policy can be completed online here.  We’ve gone through it and set out what we think below.  If you like, you can use this as a guide to fill out the questionnaire yourself.  Please use your own words to tell Hackney what you think.

Thank you for helping us to keep Hackney the fun, vibrant borough that we love!


Questions 1-3

Please fill out your details.  Everyone is welcome to comment but you should really only do this is you live or work in Hackney.


Question 4 – Shoreditch Special Policy Area

Hackney’s proposal:

• Extend the Shoreditch Special Policy Area.

• Remove the policy that new licence applications will be refused unless there are exceptional circumstances.

• Instead, ask applicants to show that their proposal will not “add to issues of cumulative impact”.

How well do you think the proposed changes to the Shoreditch SPA can help to promote the licensing objectives?

Our view: Not at all.

Points you could make:

• 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.


Question 5 – Dalston SPA

Hackney’s proposal:

• Leave the Dalston SPA boundary the same.

• Remove the policy setting out acceptable hours based on activity and use.

• Instead, ask applicants to show that their proposal will not “add to issues of cumulative impact”.

How well do you think the proposed changes to the Dalston SPA can help to promote the licensing objectives?

Our view: Poorly.

Points you could make:

• 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”.


Question 6 – General Principles

Hackney’s proposal:

• All applicants must consider “the locality and context around their premises”.

• All applicants must ensure that applications “reflect the Council’s aspiration to diversify the offer, whilst at the same time promoting the licensing objectives”.

How well do you think the proposed general principles can help to promote the licensing objectives whilst supporting a diverse range of businesses?

Our view: Well.

Points you could make:

• 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.


Question 7 – Core Hours

Hackney’s proposal:

• “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.

• Later hours may be considered where the applicant has “identified any risk that may undermine the promotion of the licensing objectives and has put in place robust measures to mitigate those risks.”

How well do you think the proposed core hours policy can help promote the licensing objectives?

Our view: Not at all.

• 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.


Question 9 – Outdoor activities

Hackney’s proposal:

• Generally restrict external areas and outdoor activity to between 8am and 10pm, unless the applicant can demonstrate that “control measures have been implemented to mitigate any negative impacts and promote the licensing objectives.”

How well do you think the proposed policy can support outdoor events, activities and areas in Hackney whilst minimising any negative impact on local communities?

Our view: Not at all.

• 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.