The Live Music Forum

Hamish Birchall Bulletin

Monday 22nd February 2010 - St Albans licensing saga continues

St Albans made national headlines last week for insisting, on health and safety grounds, that runners should only be allowed to walk during the annual pancake race on Tuesday 16th February:

By an ironic coincidence, on that very day St Albans councillor Chris White was making a presentation to DCMS on behalf of the Local Government Association. An LGA spokesperson confirmed the presentation theme: 'the value of Culture, Tourism and Sport services in promoting and improving peoples health'.

Councillor White, who represents the LGA on licensing and is chair of the LGA Culture, Tourism and Sport Board, publicised this 'DCMS gig' on Twitter:

'Haircut and then off to DCMS for a joint presentation with the Permanent Secretary. Hence the haircut.' [12.43am Feb 16]
'Early for DCMS gig so a little jaunt to the National Gallery. :-)' [4.23am Feb 16]
See: [scroll down]

The LGA is opposing entertainment licence exemptions for live music, even for hospitals and schools, on the grounds that these pose a threat to the wellbeing of local residents. It is lobbying against the exemptions for live music proposed in Lord Clement-Jones live music bill, due for debate in the Commons on 12 March, and indeed the exemption in government's current consultation which would apply to gigs with an audience of up to 100 people.

St Albans came to public notice last year for the extraordinary range of restrictive licence conditions on live music in local bars:

On 2nd February this year councillor White announced the creation of two new licensing officer posts in St Albans:

Presumably their remit will include checking that St Albans bars comply with council licence restrictions on the number of musicians and indeed genres of music. Breach of such conditions, where they apply, is a potential criminal offence punishable by a fine up to £20,000 and six months in prison.

What is behind Councillor White's apparent passion for licensing? Daily Telegraph jazz writer Sebastian Scotney has a theory:


Hamish Birchall