The Soho Society’s Licensing Group aims to ensure that the society continues to be guided by the objective of making Soho a better place to live, work and visit. Since the last AGM the Licensing Committee has continued to monitor every licensing application within Soho as per our Licensing Mandate. Careful management of licensing in this neighbourhood helps in the prevention of crime, disorder and nuisance, as well as helping to maintain public safety. Applications for alcohol sales, late-night premises, etc, within Soho are monitored, and we will object to any that cannot demonstrate they will not add to cumulative impact in this area.
Over this last year we have examined 161 licensing applications relevant to Soho, of which 47 were new applications, either for completely new premises opening up or for established premises seeking to add the sale of alcohol or late night refreshment to their current license specifications. The others were for variations to current licenses, seeking to extend opening hours, alcohol or food sales, or generally change license conditions, or premises layouts, amongst others. 31 license applications have received written objections from the Society’s Licensing Group, which were considered by Westminster Council when deciding on the licence and often led to conditions being applied to the applications resulting in a suitable compromise for both residents and applicants. Final decisions on the granting of licenses rest with Westminster Council, whose policy is reflected in the Soho Society’s Licensing Mandate.
We try, wherever possible, and in accordance with our mandate, to assist and support residents in their objections to licensing applications. Over the last few years we have monitored the proliferation of Betting Shops in and around Soho – particularly around Chinatown, which, we have discovered, has the largest cluster of betting shops in the UK – and, where possible, objected to new betting shop premises and applications to extend their hours of operation. The Gambling Act 2005 makes it difficult to oppose these, but their detrimental social impact is widely recognised and there is increasingly more negative media coverage of betting shops and their operations, leading to calls for more effective regulation.
In terms of licensed premises, we live in one of the most – possibly the most - densely-saturated neighbourhoods in the entire country. Balancing the needs of the flourishing commercial sector with the rights of residents for a quiet life may seem an impossible task, but Soho proves it is very definitely NOT impossible, and the two can exist in harmony. Most Soho residents enjoy living here because the neighbourhood is how it is – vibrant, busy and constantly stimulating. The key to these opposing residential and commercial interests working harmoniously together is negotiation and this is what enables Soho’s unique character. Long may it continue.
We acknowledge invaluable help, advice and support from Richard Brown of Westminster Citizen's Advice Bureau.
The Licensing Advice Project is provided by Citizens Advice Westminster. The Project provides free information, assistance, advice and representation at licence hearings to residents of the City of Westminster (including residents’ associations and amenity societies) and businesses in respect of their rights and responsibilities as “interested parties” under three licensing regimes:
· Licensing Act 2003 (e.g. premises which sell alcohol)
· Gambling Act 2005 (e.g. betting shops)
· Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1982 (e.g. lap-dancing clubs)
The service is independent, impartial and confidential. It is the only service of its kind in the country.
The advice takes in a range of issues including problems with the current operation of a premises or representations in respect of applications made under the three regimes. This includes advising residents how to make their concerns known, and where appropriate helping to negotiate and reach agreements with applicants regarding hours of operation, conditions etc, and seeking resolution of existing problems. The Project can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org or 020 7706 6029.
If you would like to know more, please e-mail our Vice Chair and Chair of the Licensing Group, David Gleeson.
The Soho Society Licensing Mandate
For licensing purposes, the Soho boundary is understood as that outlined by Oxford and Regent Streets, Shaftesbury Avenue and Charing Cross Road.
- To make Soho a better place for people to live, work and visit by preserving and enhancing the area’s historic fabric, its existing character and its diversity of uses; and by improving its facilities, amenities and the sustainability of its environment.
- To protect the amenity and interests of local residents and the interests of smaller traders and workers, where necessary, giving priority to local community needs over those of the tourist industry.
WE WORK TO ACHIEVE THIS BY:
- Reviewing all licence applications for Soho, i.e. restaurants, fast-food premises, public houses and bars, off-sales of alcohol, theatres, cinemas, performance venues, music and dancing premises, hotels, betting shops, casinos, combined-use premises, sexual entertainment venues.
- Objecting to all applications which impact adversely on residential amenity.
- Hold regular monthly committee meetings to review licence applications and discuss licensing issues in Soho.
- If required, discuss license applications with applicants prior to submission.
- Liaising with the Planning Committee of the Soho Society.
- Supporting local residents with licensing issues.
- Liaising with relevant officers from Westminster Council (i.e. Licensing, Police, Environmental Health, etc.)
- Recording all representations and maintaining an accurate archive.
This mandate is written within the context of the Licensing Act 2003, Gambling Act 2005 and Westminster City Council's Licensing Policy 2011, and subsequent versions. Therefore all representations made on behalf of the Society in response to licensing applications aim to promote the licensing objectives of:
- Prevention of crime and disorder
- Public safety
- Prevention of public nuisance
- Protection of children from harm
As part of the designated West End Stress Area, Soho has the highest number of licensed premises within Westminster. Stress Area policy includes core operating hours for licensed premises as follows:
- For premises for the supply of alcohol for consumption on the premises:
- Friday and Saturday: 10.00 to midnight
- Sundays before Bank Holidays: Midday to midnight
- Other Sundays: Midday to 22.30
- Monday to Thursday: 10.00 to 23.30
- For premises for the supply of alcohol for consumption off the premises:
- Monday to Saturday: 08.00 to 23.00
- Sundays: 10.00 to 22.30
- For premises for the provision of other licensable activities:
- Friday and Saturday: 09.00 to midnight
- Sundays before Bank Holidays: 09.00 to midnight
- Other Sundays: 09.00 to 22.30
- Monday to Thursday: 09.00 to 23.30
NB Special policy on cumulative impact – Stress Areas – Policy STR1:
- It is the Licensing Authority’s policy to refuse applications in the Stress Areas for: pubs and bars, fast food premises, and premises offering facilities for music and dancing; other than applications to vary hours within the Core Hours under Policy HRS1.
- Applications for other licensable activities in the Stress Areas will be subject to other policies, and must demonstrate that they will not add to cumulative impact in the Stress Areas.
OUR DETAILED AIMS ARE AS FOLLOWS:
With consideration of cumulative impact and licensing objectives, we will object to:
- all applications that wish to trade beyond defined core hours
- all new applications for betting shops, bars, music, dance and nightclub premises
- sex shop licences
We can also advise residents on reviews of licensed premises that are causing concern.
Authorised members of the Society engaging in licensing matters should always consider the following:
- Protection of Residential Amenities The Society will require particular protection of local residents in narrow streets where noise is more obtrusive and we will actively seek review of licences that are deemed to be causing a reduction of residential amenity
- Schools and Nurseries Special consideration will be paid to the interests of parents and children in the area of the school and/or nurseries and routes travelled by them as a matter of necessity
- Proliferation issues We will make objections on the ground of proliferation or concentration in any particular residential area, i.e. this reason alone may be regarded as grounds for objection
- Hours of Opening and Conditions We will not generally object to licence applications that conform with the relevant stipulations of the City of Westminster’s Licensing Policy subject to objections for any other reason
- Environmental Issues Particular note will be paid to intrusive musical noise, closing times of premises, the switching off of mechanical equipment such as air conditioning, the disposal of rubbish and bottles, and the orderly and quiet leaving of premises by patrons and staff
- Quality of the Licensee We will make objections and representations in respect of licences where the operator has managed the premises in an unsuitable or inappropriate manner with regard to the aims of this mandate and the objects of the Society
CONDUCT OF PERSONS SPEAKING ON BEHALF OF THE SOCIETY
Any members of the Society who are authorised to engage in licensing-related activities must ensure that oral or written representations, opinions or comments made on the Society’s behalf use reasoned and objective argument based on empirical research or direct experience on issues relating to the charity’s objects. Members must remember at all times their responsibility as representatives of the Society and not conduct themselves in any way that may be likely to call into question its reputation.