Campaigners have vowed to continue their fight against Hackney council’s plans to curb late opening hours claiming that it endangers the area’s big draw – its night life.
The council proposes to limit the openings of all new pubs and clubs in the area, forcing them to close at 11pm on weekdays, midnight on Fridays and Saturdays and 10.30pm on Sundays. Such a restrictive policy, critics say, turns the clock back 15 years in terms of opening hours and hamper the “night time economy” which has been vital to regenerating this part of east London.
The council also suggests doubling the size of the Shoreditch special policy area (SPA), where tougher licensing conditions are already applied to venues, arguing in a consultation paper there was evidence of a link between the number of alcohol-related ambulance pick-ups and locations of licensed premises.
Enlarging the SPA would make it harder for new venues to open as they must prove they will not add to the “cumulative impact” of anti-social behaviour or noise.
Campaigners argue the plans would ruin Hackney’s well-earned reputation as London’s hipster capital. We Love Hackney, a social media campaign group who had in 2015 successfully fought the last set of council proposals for a 11pm borough-wide curfew, described the latest plans as a threat to “London’s most vibrant boroughs”.
“This would leave our borough less diverse, less prosperous, and a less creative place to live,” We Love Hackney website argues.
They point out the move runs counter to plans for 24-hour travel in the capital, noting that this proposal comes shortly after the London Overground launched their first all-night services last December.
On Hackney’s busy streets, young people warned that the plans might “kill” the area. Ari, an 18-year-old student, said: “what’s the point of Shoreditch if you can’t go out at nights. This area would be dead if they put the curfew on the new pubs.”
Experts claimed Hackney’s plans missed the benefits pubs and clubs bring to an area. Jo Cox-Brown, founder of nighttimeeconomy.com, a consultancy that works with local councils to balance the social cost of night life with its economic benefits, told ELL she does not believe that a midnight curfew would work.
“We need to start changing the dialogue about our night-time economy to one that is positive, affirmative and really value it for what it is. I am surprised that Hackney Council haven’t thought innovatively about ways in which they can control their night-time economy”.
In 2015, Hackney Council planned a similar idea of a curfew at 11pm but scrapped it after a backlash from campaigners. Two years ago more than 4,000 We love Hackney campaigners marched against the idea.
Within the nightlife industry there is a fear the council’s consultation is just cover for a decision already taken. Mark Rodgers, 31, a doorman at Ballie Ballerson said: “the council does it every year. Clubs like ours used to be open until 4am, then 2am and now it’s open until 1am. So really I am not surprised that this will happen to new clubs, making it very difficult for new businesses to start-up. This will also affect current business and my job.”
However councillors say no final decision has been made on the proposals. Emma Plouviez, the Licensing Committee Chair, said: “The night time economy in Hackney has a great reputation which we will continue to support. We recognise it provides wider economic benefits which make Hackney the vibrant, creative place it is, but we need to strike a balance between promoting a great cultural offer whilst ensuring residents can get a good night’s sleep and that all the streets and public areas are safer in the early hours”.
“This consultation has given businesses and residents an opportunity to tell us what they think about these proposals before we finalise the policy,” said Councillor Plouviez.