The London Borough of Hackney is facing a legal challenge to its new licensing policy that imposes a late-night curfew on new licensed venues.
Although it will not apply to venues that already have a licence, since July any new venues opening up have been the subject of a ban on venues opening past 23:00 on weekdays and midnight at weekends, with outdoor drinking not permitted after 22:00.
The ban was passed unanimously by councillors, but is being opposed by a group of residents called we Love Hackney, which has pledged to fight the restrictions. It has managed to crowdfund court action after receiving pledges of support from 4,000 local people.
Its central argument is that the councillors have ignored local public opinion on the issue, pointing to the public consultation that took place before the vote.
This showed that 75 per cent of Hackney’s residents opposed the restrictions. Moreover, 77 per cent were against doubling the size of the ‘special policy area’ in Shoreditch in which new licensed venues cannot be set up except under the strictest conditions.
Moreover, 84 per cent were against the early closure plans and 75 per cent disagreed with the closing of outside drinking areas at 22:00.
We Love Hackney has labelled the new measures a “gift to corporates” on the basis that they make licences so costly to hold that only the large chains will be able to establish new premises there and independent traders will be pushed out. It claimed this will make the area “sterile and soulless”, removing the vibrant character that has made it attractive to many young people as a place to live.
The crowdfunding has raised £20,000 of the £53,000 required to pay for the action.
Among the arguments being used against Hackney’s decision is the claim that young people and members of the LGBT community will be disproportionately affected by the licensing change.