Lambeth Council have become the second area whose licensing committee have rejected a proposed 'Early Morning Restriction Order' (EMRO) to prohibit late night sales by certain premises. Last month Blackpool Council became the first, meaning no areas have adopted the measure introduced in 2012 under the PRSA 2011.
Lambeth held a four day hearing in which the proposal for the EMRO was considered for four licensed premises at a junction of Wandsworth Road and North Street in Clapham. Residents in the area had reportedly been complaining about the impact of nearby premises for a number of years. In 2011 licensing reviews of two of the premises resulted in decisions to restrict the hours, but one venue appealed to the Magistrates court and had some of the hours reinstated and with extra conditions imposed.
However licensing lawyers, acting on behalf of the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR), successfully argued against the EMRO. Significant in the decision appeared to be an agreed list of actions by the venues to address concerns of the residents. The actions include implementing ScanNet, bag checks, increased linking between door staff, a last entry of midnight, and regular meetings between venues, the Council and residents.
The Licensing Committee's decision stated “We applaud the agreed list of actions proposed by Lost Society and signed by all four premises. We endorse these steps and welcome this approach, which was clearly absent prior to the institution of this process. We expect to see that this would lead to a significant improvement in the situation for residents.”
Nonetheless the Committee plan to review the position in six months and may recommend a review of all four licensed premises or to reinstate EMRO proceedings if the situation has not improved.
However Councillor Jack Hopkins, cabinet member for community safety, said:
“Councils across the country have tried to use this new power, all coming up short. We have to find a better way to protect our residents from alcohol-related antisocial behaviour - but it’s starting to look like this legislation isn’t as helpful as it needs to be.” Cllr Hopkins said he would be writing to the Home Secretary as a "review" and "upgrade" of the legislation was "much needed".
The issue over licensing legislation is likely to remain contentious. The ALMR appear to be fulfilling their pledge to support action against areas seeking to implement EMROs or Late Night Levies (LNL), although several LNLs have been implemented including Newcastle. Suggestions remain that an un-level playing field still exists with the off-trade's contribution to alcohol-related problems still being over-looked. The Local Government Association (LGA) also recently called for an overhaul of licensing legislation.