The Live Music Forum

Hamish Birchall Bulletin


Thursday 6th July 2006 - Sir Richard Steele pub - Abbey Road Studios

' Now as long as they tick the box which says we want to put on an entertainment they won't have to pay any more and it is a much much easier system.' Former licensing minister James Purnell, BBC Radio 4 'Today', Wednesday 29 June 2005.

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The Sir Richard Steele pub in Haverstock Hill, London, has resumed its weekly jazz sessions after a break of nearly six months. In February I reported that the gigs had stopped following council enforcement action after residents' complaints - not about the live music, but about a noisy DJ.

In the past, the pub relied on the old 'two in a bar rule' to run its successful Monday night jazz. During last year's licensing changeover the landlord had failed to apply for a live music authorisation.

The pub subsequently applied for a new licence, which was finally granted a couple of weeks ago. It allows recorded music every day up to midnight. They can also have live music... but with no more than two musicians... no later than 11pm... the music must be jazz or traditional, no rock or pop... and the venue must install a noise limiter.

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Abbey Road Studios

On February 13, BBC Radio 2 staged a Coldplay gig at Abbey Road Studios. The audience included members of the public who had won free tickets to the event in a BBC online competition. Under the old regime, such gigs had been deemed private, not for profit, and therefore exempt. But no longer. Westminster City Council decided that even this ticketing arrangement was public for the purposes of the new law and the event was therefore licensable. (Top of the Pops was caught for the same reason).

The Studios then applied for a new licence which would allow them to host such events. The application provoked 67 objections on noise and disorder grounds. The council initially recommended that the application be refused.

Significantly, the Studio's licence application suggests they believed that the recording facility itself was licensable. On the 'facilities for making music' section they entered: 'All necessary facilities so that musicians are able to play and record their music'. This may explain why they asked for authorisation 10am-midnight, 365 days a year, which in turn probably explains the high number of objectors.

For sight of their application see Westminster's online public licensing register:  .

Enter 'Abbey Road Studios' in the 'Trading as name' box. To the right of the screen there is a disclaimer you must accept to gain access to PDF's of the application.

The public hearing to consider the objections took place this morning at the council's Marylebone offices. I understand that a compromise has been reached, but do not yet know the terms.

A spokesperson for the council suggested that recording studio facilities would not be considered licensable by the council's legal officers unless 'guests were formally invited - one or two friends wouldn't count'. However, the presence of an audience is not required under the provision of entertainment facilities section of the Licensing Act 2003 (Schedule 1, para 3).

Hamish Birchall