The Live Music Forum



Friday 8th July 2005 - None in a bar from 24th November


On 24 November 'two in a bar' becomes essentially 'none in a bar'.

There is less than a month to go for venues already promoting two in a bar gigs to benefit from the 'two for the price of one' offer for a live music and alcohol licence. By 06 August, venues wishing to continue such gigs after 24 November must make what is in practice, if not in name, a public entertainment licence application alongside their alcohol licence conversion. Applications for live music made later, using this 'variation' process, will incur another licence fee, more advertising costs, plus possible legal representation at a public hearing to consider objections, and licence conditions.

How does the government justify 'none in a bar'? The answer is: noise.

"The 'two in a bar' rule is being discontinued.... The Government believes this rule in practice restricts what entertainment will be
provided, creates disincentives to the presentation of more diverse musical acts and fails to protect local residents from noise nuisance. The new regime will allow musicians and other entertainers to flourish whilst providing protection against unnecessary disturbance."
DCMS website - Alcohol and Entertainment, then 4th para under 'Regulated Entertainment'.

Note the absence of references to public safety, crime, and disorder.

This government notoriously insists on 'evidence-based policy'. Where, then, is the evidence that two in a bar gigs are a significant source of disturbance? Answer: there isn't any.

Indeed, all the evidence points to noisy punters outside bars as by far the biggest source of disturbance. In 2002, the Noise Abatement Society confirmed that this accounted for 80% of complaints about pubs.

The remaining 20% appears to down to recorded music or noisy machinery. But, irrespective of entertainment licensing, local authorities have the power to confiscate noisy equipment immediately, and they can issue anticipatory or reactive noise abatement notices. Camden council used a noise abatement notice to shut down the West End show Umoja in 2002. One resident's complaints were enough. Since 2001 the police have had the power to shut rowdy pubs immediately for up to 24 hours.

You might consider asking your MP what evidence the government has that two in a bar performances are a significant source of disturbance.

Hamish Birchall