Here at Covent Garden Community Association (CGCA) we are looking forward to seeing our neighbourhood re-open for business. For those of us who can, we will need to support our local businesses more than ever in the absence of many visitors.
However, the situation also carries some concerns for the community. For example, we are working very hard to get an amendment to the ‘Business & Planning’ Bill that went through the House of Commons rather quickly on Monday 29th June. We believe that measures to deal with the full impact of some points have not been dealt with in the wording. Westminster council, and the amenity societies in central London, are aligned on this. As is Nickie Aiken, our MP on the Westminster side. But we need to work fast. To this end we have chosen what we believe to be the most glaring issue to highlight for amendment.
This issue is the automatic extension of on-licences for off-sales until September 2021. In areas like the West End, with bars that can serve until 3am and sometimes later, people will be able to wander outside with their drinks and essentially have a street party under residents’ bedroom windows in the middle of the night in a way that is illegal now. And it is rightly illegal. We have a licensing regime that carefully considers individually what each premises should be allowed to do.
We cannot believe that the small profit from late night off-sales in this industry will even begin to balance a) the cost to residents’ health and b) the cost to police and councils in trying to tackle the resultant problems. Indeed, the resources do not exist for b), although the minister’s replies in the Commons do not consider this.
So we are trying to get an amendment to limit off-sales to 11pm whatever the business has as a terminal hour for on-sales. This is still pretty late, given that groups could still be sitting on our doorsteps swigging from a bottle for an hour or so afterwards. But 11pm is a familiar cut-off in other areas of alcohol licensing, and we believe that it is a compromise we could live with. If we don’t get the amendment it could mean people congregating in yards and streets with booze bought from nearby hostelries until whatever time those close for on-sales
A tip for residents is to engage with your neighbouring licensed premises now. Then, depending in what law we end up with, the conversation is already opened for discussion about what people can live with and what is genuinely useful for their business.