The Live Music Forum

Hamish Birchall Circular

Friday 14th December 2011 - LGA u-turn as live music bill advances

In a remarkable u-turn the Local Government Association has announced qualified support for the live music bill, which has today passed its Committee stage in the House of Commons:

Two minor technical amendments were agreed during Committee which require the bill to return, briefly, to the House of Lords.  But there is every expectation that it will move to Report and 3rd reading in the Commons early next year.  If enacted, entertainment licensing would no longer apply to most performances of live music to audiences of up to 200, between 8am and 11pm.  In alcohol-licensed premises, that freedom could be subject to conditions if there were problems.

For years the LGA has been hostile to any relaxation of entertainment licensing for live music. But faced with a government committed to cutting red tape, and the more radical exemptions recently proposed by DCMS in a public consultation, it would seem that the bill represents an acceptable deregulatory compromise - for live music at least.

One factor in the LGA u-turn is likely to be their belated recognition that, under the existing Section 177 of the Licensing Act, many conditions relating to live music are not in fact enforceable in bars and restaurants where the maximum permitted capacity is 200.

The complexity of the s177 provision has been widely criticised and indeed misunderstood by licensing authorities and residents' groups alike.  The Act's live music provisions generally remain difficult to interpret - one reason, no doubt, why the LGA itself mistakenly suggests today in its press statement that a small unamplified gig in a room within a theatre would not be covered by the bill's exemptions.


Hamish Birchall