The Live Music Forum

Hamish Birchall Circular

Wednesday 23rd November 2011 - Music and dance 'some of most problematic activities' says licensing chief

Performances of plays, dance, and live or recorded music are 'some of the most problematic activities for local communities', according to Steve Lonnia, head of licensing for Sheffield City Council.

The extraordinary claim was made in a letter from Mr Lonnia sent about a month ago to local community organisations (copy of text below), drawing their attention to the latest DCMS entertainment licensing deregulation proposals within the public consultation that closes on 03 December:

While agreeing that 'dancing by pupils at school fetes or pianists in restaurants' may merit lighter regulation, Mr Lonnia is against any 'blanket removal of licensing requirements'.

He warns of the DCMS consultation: '... It would allow premises to have live music, DJ's etc, without the need for a licence and therefore without any controls. We are seriously concerned how this would impact on local communities in Sheffield.'

He does not mention that DJs are allowed in most bars without conditions as a result of the Licensing Act's transition arrangements in 2005. All venues converting a justices on-licence at the time were automatically granted permission to play recorded music. This was known as a 'grandfather right'. The right to have one or two live musicians was abolished.

Mr Lonnia's letter continues in similar vein. He adds: 'If, after reading these proposals, you are also concerned, we would encourage you to respond directly to the DCMS highlighting your concerns.'

There is no mention of the raft of legislation already in place, irrespective of licensing, to regulate crime and disorder, noise nuisance, and health and safety for all activities in workplaces such as bars and restaurants. Nor is there any mention of the range of entertainments already exempt from entertainment licensing, including big screen broadcast entertainment. Nor does he mention that the DCMS deregulation consultation proposes to KEEP licence conditions relating to live music and other activities in bars and pubs [para 2.25 consultation proposal document].

Together with Mr Lonnia's suggestion that licensing is the only way to control live music and DJs, his letter is seriously misleading. Depressingly, however, it is completely consistent with the hysterical misrepresentations of the potential impact of the DCMS deregulation proposals we have already seen in Oxford and Kensington & Chelsea.

No doubt the letter will produce the desired effect: a slew of uninformed, knee-jerk rejections of the DCMS proposals from worried community groups.

Mr Lonnia's fears about health and safety, noise nuisance and so on at live music events do not apparently extend to the local tradition of pub carol singing. In 2005 his department decided that these packed events could go ahead unlicensed under the Licensing Act's exemption for music for the purposes of, or incidental to a religious meeting or service (LA2003, Sch. 1 para 9).

Copy text of Steve Lonnia's letter:

Date 26 October 2011

To All Community Assemblies / Community Groups

Dear Sir/Madam

DCMS Consultation - Proposal to examine the deregulation of Schedule One of the Licensing Act 2003

The Department of Culture Media and Sport DCMS are seeking views on the above proposal to remove licensing requirements for most of the activities currently defined as ‘regulated entertainment’ under the Licensing Act 2003.

For your information ‘regulated entertainment’ covers some of the most problematic activities for local communities, such as;

A performance of a play
An exhibition of a film
An indoor sporting event
A boxing or wrestling event (either indoors or outdoors)
A performance of live music
Any playing of recorded music, and
A performance of dance

As well as the provision of facilities that enable members of the public to make music or dance.

Although we agree that for some small scale or low risk events, such as the exhibition of dance by pupils at a school fete or pianists in restaurants you do not need such stringent regulation. However, we feel this is best dealt with by amending the Licensing Act to give Licensing Authorities more flexibility when dealing with these types of events. We do not believe that a blanket removal of licensing requirements is appropriate for any type of event.

As the Licensing Authority in Sheffield, we are extremely concerned about these proposals and the potential impact they could have from a health and safety, public nuisance and anti-social behaviour point of view. It would allow premises to have live music, DJs etc. without the need for a licence and therefore without any controls. We are seriously concerned how this would impact on local communities in Sheffield

Such events would be able to continue into the early hours of the morning with hundreds of people in attendance. Problems arising from regulated entertainment are one of the most significant issues we experience and it would only get worse if these proposals we passed.

The full consultation paper can be found on the DCMS website at: http;//

If after reading these proposals, you are also concerned, we would encourage you to respond directly to the DCMS highlighting your concerns. The contact details for the response can be found on the consultation document.

Alternatively, you are welcome to support our response as we will be providing detailed answers to all the questions posed in the consultation document.

The closing date for responses to DCMS is 3rd December 2011.

We would urge you to let the Community Groups in your areas know about this consultation and ensure that their opinions are heard. Should you wish to discuss these proposals in further details with us, please contact us and we will endeavour to attend any public meetings prior to submitting our response or assist you in submitting a response.

Yours faithfully

Steve Lonnia
Chief Licensing Officer
Licensing Services
Town Hall
Tel 0114 273 4264 Fax 0114 273 5410


Hamish Birchall