The Live Music Forum

Venues With Licensing Problems


One of the ongoing problems live music venues have had to deal with, is noise complaints from neighbours with less than reasonable grounds. Often a long standing popular venue with an important place in the community can lose it's license to host live music on the basis of a single complaint, often from somebody who has recently moved into the area in full knowledge that an antertainment venue operated nearby.

Live music venues are more often than not run by people with a passion for the art and through their hard work and perseverance the art continues to survive. Just !

Unfortunately, the Licensing Act 2003 seems to have made it easier for Council Licensing Departments to withdraw live music permission based on anecdotal complaints from a single source. We have heard of a single complainer leafleting the local area in order to whip up anti-venue feeling.

The legal costs of seeing through an appeal process can be crippling for a small business and many don't make it.

Here are some stories of brave business men and women who have not buckled and continue to fight for live music..........


The Voodoo Lounge

Stamford, Lincolnshire

The Voodo Lounge began in 2008, as a Restaurant, Bar and Music Club.

Venue proprietor Michael said, "We were granted a licence for all the above by South Kesteven District Council, who we were in communication with throughout. We now employ 30 people both full and part time, quite an achievement in this climate and particularly this industry." The Voodoo Lounge won Peterborough and District CAMRA pub of the year 2010.

Michael went on to say,"- We have huge local profile and broad cross community support due to opportunities given to emerging local talent of all creative pursuits, several charity events and community fundraising events, but also national profile due to the calibre of artist we are attracting. These artists as a rule do not play small towns on their tours and we are beginning already to have profile outside the UK with European, Australian and American artists now playing here.

We are a model of how hard work, determination, endeavour and graft, allied to intelligence and experience, can achieve success."

However, things began to deteriorate after complaints from one neighbour.

Michael goes on, "At the time we took on the building, we saw the basement as being ideal for music, as we did not think it would affect anyone. In fact, one of the conditions of the Licence is 'All loud music will be restricted to the sound proof basement venue...' We then found out that, over the years, an extension had been tacked onto this wall and that the neighbour could hear some of the music quite clearly when he was in this room. As a result, we started to invest as much as we could afford in sound
proofing, whenever we could. In the meantime, we were taken to court by SKDC for noise nuisance and fined £2,500 despite having spent £30,000 on sound proofing in our first year, almost ruining us.

This neighbour has since moved due to his work, and his replacement is more than happy to work with us as we strive to complete the work and endeavour to not be a nuisance to anyone.

SKDC, despite grown adult neighbours, in regular contact, working together to resolve this amicably and maturely, have moved to close us down for live music and comedy, thus placing the entire business in jeopardy.

We have commissioned an acoustic expert of 30 years experience to do a survey and recommend a treatment of further proofing to get us over the line, he is confident this can be done, this will begin on May 14th at an initial cost of £1000 for the survey alone. We do this despite SKDC's unyielding stance on this.

We have a petition of almost 2000 signatures, significant in a catchment area of 18,000. All local press are prioritising the story and 4 regional BBC radio stations are carrying it."

You can sign the Voodoo Lounge petition at,


The Crumplehorn Inn

Polperro, Cornwall;

When the Cruplehorn Inn in Polperro, Cornwall applied to vary their license to include live music they started a "controversy" and encountered uneccessary costs.

The licensing problems experienced by the Crumplehorn Inn were reported locally.

"It was described as a 'controversial licence' which in itself is extremely frustrating", says licensee Sonja Crockford, "We are a 13th century Inn with a water wheel and bordering a river, so our outside area is integral to our location and setting. We simply asked for the right to be able to play music outside when the occasion and weather suited."

"We've never actually had any complaints regarding noise or live music. The only time there has been any objections from the public is during the licensing process itself, because the actual licensing procedure seems to promote that sort of response / contribution."

Polperro itself has hosted an annual music festival for the past 12 odd years - a testament to the extent to which music is loved and supported in the area.

"We actively support original music and local musicians", says Sonja "and we are primarily a folk music venue with some diversions into blues, bluegrass and other easy listening styles. So that the music we put on fits in with our environment and our type of premises. We have been asked to host an open mic night by local musicians and those learning music to share their knowledge locally and encourage new musicians - one of the reasons we asked to extend the licence."

"It cost us £315 for the application to vary our licence. It costs about the same to put the required advert in the local paper. Then you have to count the amount of time it takes, the staffing you have to put in place to be able to leave the premises to attend the hearing and the damage it causes in the community. We get left with the aftermath trying to pour oil on troubled waters with some very upset, annoyed and angry neighbours who have been stirred up by the whole process. That doesn't take into account how upset we are at the apparent injustice of it all .... and we still feel that way even though we got the licence!"


The Marina Fountain

St Leonards-on-Sea, East Sussex

Sussex publican, Stevie Beale, received a noise abatement order following a complaint over one event, eventhough she has been at this venue for nine years successfully promoting over 1,000 bands. This is her story:-

"On April 24th 2010, I hosted a scooter skirmish, which is a scooter owners club outing (lambretta’s etc.). The club had a whole weekend of events planned and one of the events was a ride out to my pub, BBQ and band arranged for them, by me.

As a fairly new event, numbers were a bit vague. But the band was booked for 2.00pm to 4.30pm. As it happened it didn’t rain and the amount of people who turned up was a lot more than they ever expected. About 100. Because of the good weather a lot stayed outside with their scooters showing them off. BUT there was absolutely no revving of machines. I was very aware that this could be a problem.

The band played to an empty pub, as everyone was either outside in the garden enjoying the BBQ or out the front showing off their machines. A particular neighbour who refuses to ever talk to me, complained to the council about the noise. The Council then sent down 2 officers (who were actually on their way somewhere else) who ‘witnessed’ excessive noise.

They did not make themselves known to me, nor did they come into the premises at all. There was no phone call about the noise complaint, nor any warning.

They claim that they could hear the music on the prom, approx 150 yards ways, over the noise of the sea, over the noise of a busy main road. I find this unbelievable!!!

None of my other neighbours have an issue, I do speak to them on a regular basis to make sure.

The next thing I knew, on the 30th April 2010, another Licensing Officer came into the pub, with a bodyguard! And issued me a noise abatement order. He mentioned the bikes, people outside drinking and the noise.

The bikes - he has no control over- it’s a police issue and they have no issue, I have spoken to the police over this and they have absolutely no problem. They have never had a negative report about me.

People outside drinking - Hastings town centre has a no street drinking policy, BUT I am not in Hastings town centre, and I have never been told, nor have I ever had a complaint before. And even if I were aware that the drinking policy extended to me , it comes into force AFTER 9pm. PLUS there is a little shop next door to me selling cheap alcohol. My fosters £3.30 , next door 50p a can!!!

The noise issue - the REAL problem, day noise levels are different to night levels, they had no meters, only their ears., hardly a scientific method.

You will be aware that everyone’s ears are different, what you consider a noise I may not. The Licensing Officer who served the Noise Abatement notice claimed that, tugging on his earlobes, those are his meters, but he was not there on the day of the event.

In the 9 years I have been at the pub I have had over 1000 bands, and, since 2005, only 3 other complaints over noise apart from this one. So to come in heavy handed with a noise abatement order was a bit excessive, considering my good record. Other complaints are over A-boards. I have now spent over £1000, putting in a lobby on the side door and re-doing the sound proofing on the windows. It's now like a sealed unit, no air or ventilation. Which is worse for me now as numbers are going down due to the heat!!!

The second Licensing officer came to listen to a band, May 21st, and was completely satisfied with everything, as was the neighbour.

So I am upset that Hastings Council cannot lift the order. My record as a licensee is 100%, I am not even mentioned at the bar watch meetings, the police have been called on only a handful of occasions, I once even got a letter of commendation for taking the keys of a seriously drunk driver and calling the police to him.

Hastings is a big biker town, every May Day over 10,000 bikers come to town and park anywhere they like, bands and noise are forgotten for one day. So why can they do it, while a once in a blue moon event by me is treated in such a way?
Hastings council holds many outside events that break the sound barrier throughout the summer and they don’t get into trouble. Beer/music festival, beach party to name a few.

I have been instructed to take meter readings in future but to be honest they are not worth the time and effort. As told to me by the solicitor who came to court with me the first time.

I appreciate that Admiral Taverns has limited funds, so do I ! I cannot afford to do this on my own, I was promised a ‘few’ barrels to help pay for the soundproofing works, but now that’s not going to happen.

I am struggling, along with other tenants. Mine is a purely music venue, no food. Wet led as they say. I am a good tenant, don’t buy out, pay my bills, don’t even ask for much from you. I have a lot of local support, and have even had letters in the local paper supporting me. The LVA support me and they feel there could be an agenda to stifle local pubs."

The Merry Harriers

Hambledon, Godalming, Surrey

Licensees Colin and Julie Stoneley run a village pub called The Merry Harriers and only feature live music about once a month. Recently they were served with a noise abatement notice following a complaint from one neighbour.

Julie Stonely explained on the Merry Harriers Facebook page, "Some of you may already be aware that we have been served a Noise Abatement Notice by Waverely Borough Council. This stems from a complaint from one neighbour about our less than once monthly music nights and could result in The Merry Harriers losing it's music license which would mean the end of live music at the pub.... On hearing about this some of the village 'elders' have put together the attached letter and addressed it to Martin Shorten Head of Environmental Health at Waverely. Many of our regulars and people from the village have added their names and addresses to the letter and sent it to Mr Shorten. If you would like to support us in this matter and help to make sure we keep live music at The Merry Harriers please feel free to print the attached letter and send it to Mr Shorten or sign it electronically and email it back to us at Thanks for taking the time to read this. Julie & Colin"

One of the residents' letters speaks of this pub "thriving and providing an important part of the social life of the village". The author concludes "I among many others in Hambledon (and elsewhere) would be most distressed if a complaint from one person should be allowed to spoil the enjoyment of many and jeapordise the future of our village pub".

Another letter reasons, "I have attended and enjoyed many of the live music evenings held at the pub along with many other locals. After so many years when the pub was allowed to become run-down, the current owners have brought a breath of fresh air and vitality to what should be a central part of village activity. The evenings are always well-behaved and well-attended, bringing much needed income to the pub to assist in its efforts to overcome all other pressures that work against its continued survival.
The pub itself has been in its present situation long before the complainant moved into a nearby house (those living even nearer have no complaints, I understand). Why then, is the pub to restrict its activities and the customers lose a valued amenity for the sake of one, rather selfish, individual."

Thanks to those venues who have made their stories available. If you are in the area pop in and have a drink. Please say hello from us !



Small Festivals


Since the Licensing Act 2003 came into power Small Festivals have suffered as badly as small gigs in licensed premises.

Under the guise of Health and Safety objectives Councils have found a variety of reasons for refusing licenses or increasing fees and charges on small festivals to unsustainable levels. As a consequence, in recent years, many have been forced to close, particularly in the West Country and Wales.

Here is a list of Small Festivals which have been forced to close or are under threat of licensing conditons which jeapordise their future.


Starfest 2010!/event.php?eid=283067680619

Dave Wiggins led a team of people, including a publican, who wanted to stage "Starfest", a small music festival (less than 500) in a large field at the rear of The Star in Clapham, Bedford. They met and consulted with the Police, Fire and local Council. There were no objections from either the Fire or Police and Starfest submitted all of the proper documentation to the Environmental Health Department, Bedford Borough Council), whom they met with on two occasions on site. The TEN License was granted by the licencing department of Bedford Borough Council on 23rd February 2010.

Four days before the festival was due to begin Starfest received a pre-emptive Noise Abatement Order from Bedford Borough Council Environmental Health Services. This was delivered by hand by an Environmental health officer on May 24th 2010, 4 days prior to the start of the festival which was scheduled to run between 28th - 31st May 2010 inclusive.

Dave Wiggins said, "We were advised that this had been issued as we had not supplied a detailed 'noise management plan' within our paperwork by the requested date of May 20th. Although we had included a noise risk assessment, and full event management plan and risk assessment. This was simply an oversight on our part and we offered to copy the appropriate document to the environmental heath department that very day, though this was rejected".

Dave went on, "We also asked for the guidelines of volume levels with which we could work in accordance; we were told that there were no official levels. dB readings for example; we have 2 x calibrated type II sound level meters which we could have used. But volume levels were deemed to be either excessive or compliant only by the ear of the Environmental health officer present. In other words, we had nothing to work to to stay within the law. We were advised that the notice was issued also because our festival was to run over the
course of four consecutive days; therefore to try and stay compliant again, we shortened the festival at great expense and inconvenience to just two days, Sat 29th / Sun 30th".

This led to problems with ticket sales and publicity for the re- scheduled event which produced a much lower attendance (estiamted 65% reduction in overall ticket sales ).

The organisers of this festival did everything possible to work with the authorities and this is borne out by the lack of any problems with the Police or Fire departments, and the granting of the Temporary Event Notice in February.

The 'noise' problems could have been ironed out earlier with the will and co-operation of the licensing officer, saving a lot of expense for the organisers. Again the use of an individual's 'ears' instead of scientific equipment to monitor testable and reasonable limits bring into question the efficiency of the way the administration of these 'local' laws is carried out. The question is, are there enough laws governing the way local authorities govern us ?

The Celtic Blue Rock


The Wyeside Music Festival


The Black Horse Music Festival


Strawberry Fair


The Rock and Blues Custom Show


The Big Green Gathering


The Builth Wells International Bike Show



In coming weeks this page will feature more details of some of these popular and successful festivals which have been uneccessarily troubled. If you have any to add, please email,

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