The Live Music Forum

Hamish Birchall Bulletin

Wednesday 12th January 2011 - Celebrate the Royal Wedding - and that's an order

'On 29 April 2011, the nation will celebrate the Royal Wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton.'
So begins the Home Office consultation launched today to find out how many people back their plan to allow pubs and bars in England and Wales to stay open till 1am on Friday 29th and Saturday 30th April:

If the nation approves, the proposal will be implemented under Section 172 of the Licensing Act 2003. This allows the Secretary of State to relax opening hours for special occasions using a 'licensing hours order':

But the extra fun time would not automatically extend to the provision of live music, recorded music, or dancing.  Only venues that already have live music and entertainment facilities permissions could benefit.  The consultation explicitly asks 'Do you agree that the order should apply to the provision of regulated entertainment?':
The wording of the question and the yes/no tick box answer means that no-one can indicate a preference for live as opposed to recorded music, or indeed for any of the seven different entertainments included within the term 'regulated entertainment'.  Many people who might tolerate unamplified or moderately amplified live music till 1am may not be keen on extended hours for nightclub-style entertainment.
More significantly there is no question seeking public consent to apply the extra hours order to the provision of entertainment facilities.
This is a serious oversight.  'Entertainment facilities', as described within the Act (Sch.1 para 3), cover not only amplification, but also dance floors, musical instruments, a stage or even a karaoke machine.  In other words, pretty much anything that enables people to be entertained, or to entertain themselves, through music and dancing.
In failing to seek public consent on extending operating times for this crucial licensing permission, as far as music and dancing is concerned the consultation is void.
Even if Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt allows extra time over the Royal Wedding weekend for alcohol and the provision of regulated entertainment, only about a quarter of licensed premises have the necessary authorisation for the provision of 'entertainment facilities' that would allow dancing to live bands or recorded music.  But with the consultation as it stands, he will not have public approval to allow even these venues to host music and dancing beyond their existing operating times. The entertainment facilities statistics were confirmed by the government last year in a Written Answer to a question from Lord Colwyn:
By contrast most bars and pubs could provide a DJ without dancing, as permission to play recorded music was granted automatically to all bars converting their old licences in 2005. And big screen broadcast entertainment needs no Licensing Act permissions at all.

Hamish Birchall