The Live Music Forum


Wednesday 2nd November 2005 - Final Deadline Approaches

Most bars and restaurants should by now have been granted new premises licences which will come into force on 24 November. However, there is no clear picture of the impact on live music and it looks increasingly as though it may never be possible to make a really accurate assessment.

Some licensing law firms report that the majority of the applications they have processed have been successful in getting authorisations to allow bands, although some of these venues will still be subject to restrictions on the number of gigs a year. On the other hand, Punch Taverns, which operates nearly 7,000 pubs in England and Wales, has simply renewed the 'two in a bar rule' for the bulk of their premises. It is likely that some independently-run pubs will have done the same.

One bar in Hampstead, La Brocca, has dropped its long-running jazz duo gigs as a result of the new regime. Bar owner David Locke applied to have live bands and to open later. The venue had had a few noise complaints in the past, and according to Mr Locke the local authority strongly hinted that if he wanted to be successful in getting permission to open later it might be a good idea to abandon the live music application. He took the advice, and was successful in his application for later opening.

But even where bars have been granted permission to host bands, this does not mean they will provide them. In many cases, the licence will be granted on condition that if they do have live music, they must fit double glazing, hire door supervisers, fit more doors, a noise limiter, and so on. The bar owner will agree in principle, and be granted his or her licence. They are only required to implement the conditions IF they have live music. So, the existence of a live music authorisation on the local authority licensing register will not necessarily mean that live music is being provided.

No doubt the government will make use of this in the weeks to come, claiming this or that percentage of new live music venues have been created by their reforms.

What of the MORI live music survey, touted by the government as the benchmark study? In August DCMS finally conceded that the survey does not reveal the proportion of 'two in a bar' gigs by venue category. So it will be impossible to tell, using this yardstick, whether the situation improves or worsens for live bands in pubs.

You will recall BBC reports earlier this year showing that many smaller businesses found the new licence application process costly and complex. In many cases, the paperwork ran to well over 20 pages, not including new 1:100 scale plans of the premises, all of which had to be copied to 8 different authorities. Licensing minister James Purnell was criticised for claiming that the process was much easier and cheaper.

On 20 October, DCMS announced that Purnell had launched 'a bureaucracy-busting task force' for the culture, media and sport industries at the 4th annual European Tourism Forum in Malta. The press release continued: 'In his speech to fellow EU ministers and representatives from the EU tourism industry, James Purnell said that burdensome regulation is an EU-wide problem – and the UK is taking steps to address it. The move follows Government and industry concern that smaller businesses must not be stifled by red tape and unnecessary regulations.'
Purnell said: "Smaller businesses are the heart of the tourism industry and I want to make sure that anyone thinking of setting up a new business isn't overwhelmed by regulation."

Read the full press release at:


Hamish Birchall