HEALTH & SAFETY / LICENSING
Live event industry
JD Wetherspoon loses appeal over Guildford pub: Regina (J D Wetherspoon Plc) v Guildford Bourough Council The Times 14 April 2006
Pub chain owner JD Wetherspoon has lost its High Court challenge against Guildford Borough Council. The company wanted the high court to overturn a decision by the local authority that effectively blocked its Lloyds No 1 pub gaining a three-hour extension. Guildford Council blocked the extension after claiming in contravened its cumulative impact policy. Wetherspoons had insisted the policy should apply only to new premises – the Rodboro Buildings venue was converted from an existing JDWetherspoon pub (and coincidently is next door to the Academy for Contemporary Music where the Editor of Music Law Updates has taught!). Lawyers for Wetherspoon argued that the Guildford licensing authority’s refusal to grant its application was undermining the new licensing regime. Sir Richard Beckett, QC, for the pub chain, claimed that the council was effectively enforcing the old 11pm closing time by the back door and said that the council’s policy was contrary to the 2003 Licensing Act. He argued that the authority had adopted a “cumulative impact policy” for Bridge Street because of the concentration of pubs there. That meant, he said, that extended licences in the Bridge Street area were not granted unless there were exceptional circumstances. Mr Justice Beatson ruled, however, that the policy was lawful. He said that it was not unreasonable of the council to have taken into account that extending the opening hours of Lloyds No 1 would disrupt the present “staggered” closing times in surrounding streets. His lordship said that the Council was not precluded from applying its cumulative impact policy to an application to vary a licence by the Licensing Act 2003 or by the Home Secretary’s Guidance to Licensing Authorities and Police July 7 2005 or by its own Statement of LicensingPolicy of November 2004. Furthermore the Council was entitled to find that Wetherspoon’s application to vary the terms of their licence was a material variation and so the cumulative impact policy applied. Wetherspoon is taking comfort from a part of the judgment that insists, however, that there should be a presumption in favour of granting extended hours. Company spokesman Eddie Gershon said: “95% of our pubs already have extended hours. The judgment applies purely to the Guildford pub and seven other in Westminster and Bromley where local authorities have similar policies. We take a lot of positives out of the judgment because it says there is a presumption that local authorities should grant longer hours.” However, a spokesman for Guildford Council said: “We are extremely pleased that the High Court has ruled that we applied our policy in the correct manner. This will have a positive impact on our community and will also support the efforts of other local authorities wishing to maintain law and order in their city centres”. Council legal costs of £24,000 were awarded against Wetherspoons.
Westminster City Council had announced that 28 licensing appeals have been withdrawn by operators after consultation. This follows news that four appeals against the decisions taken by the council’s Licensing Sub-Committee were lost. Three were dismissed with costs awarded to the council and one appeal was allowed with no order as to costs. The three cases were in the council’s West End ‘stress area’. This was created by the WCC as it believes that the area is saturated already with premises that serve alcohol late into the night. Despite these cases and the Wetherspoons case above, it should be noted that in October 2005 Mr Justice Richards found that the Licensing Policies of Canterbury City Council and forty other local authorities were illegal . Central to the case was that Canterbury’s Licensing Policy was far too prescriptive, set broad blanket conditions on licensed businesses and misled those applying for licences about what they had to do to be granted a licence – in effect the case was that the Council’s Licensing Policy was in breach of the provisions of the Licensing Act 2003.
However in Merseyside a pub has lost its extended hours after an appeal to the Magistrates Court. The pub, which had no problems with the police or local authority since November, lost its extended hours after residents complained it might cause a late-night disturbance. The Saughall Hotel in Saughall Massie on Merseyside had been granted extended hours to midnight from Sunday to Thursday and until 1am on Friday and Saturday nights. But magistrates cut the hours to 11.30pm from Sunday to Thursday and midnight at weekends following a case brought by local residents. The Saughall Massie Conservation Society brought the case because they feared the new hours would lead to disorder and excessive noise. The Publican (13 April 2006) reports that this was despite the fact the police, local authority and pub company had received no complaints about the premises – and despite reassurances issued from the government at the time of the Licensing Act that pubs would not be penalised unless they created problems
www.musiclawupdates.com Archive October 2005
The Times 12 th April 2006, The Times Law Reports 14 th April 2006.
The Publican 13 th April 2006