Hackney campaigners fight back against new rules forcing bars to close by midnight

The Bricklayer’s Arms pub in Shoreditch, Hackney.

The vibrant and busy Bricklayer’s Arms pub in Shoreditch, Hackney. Pic: Terence Chisholm.

Hackney residents have hit back against council restrictions forcing new bars in the borough to close by midnight at weekends, brought in to clamp down on nightlife in the area.

The not-for-profit group ‘We Love Hackney’, have launched a crowd funder petition to raise money to legally challenge the rules that involve a ‘core hours’ alcohol licensing policy, in the hope they can have them overturned.

The new ‘core hours’ policy means new bars anywhere in the borough will be instructed to close at 11pm on weekdays and midnight at weekends, also new outside bar areas will have to close even earlier at the time of 10pm.

We Love Hackney is made up of 4,000 local residents and was founded over three years ago to campaign against the new licensing rules when they were first initiated as mere proposals.

The latest stage of the group’s on-going campaigning against the new policies is a petition to launch a judicial review into the manner in which the council brought about the new nightlife restrictions in July, earlier this year.

Hackney Council unanimously imposed the new stricter laws, despite backlash from a huge number of residents opposed to the plans (75%), who voiced their objections in the consultation period that ended in January 2018.

Matt Sanders, a member of We Love Hackney group, told EastLondonLines: “They came into force in August but because they only effect new venues the impact won’t be felt straight away.

“They were opposed by 75% of residents in the council’s consultation but were passed anyway. We are hoping to have them overturned.

“We’re having to try the courts, because democracy has failed us.”

The group say that this is their last chance to get the restrictions thrown out and force the council to think again.

Campaigners feel strongly that their nightlife should be protected because it has brought jobs, culture, and investment to the borough.

New restrictions also state that the size of ‘special policy areas’ will be doubled, meaning it will be much more difficult to open new venues in Dalston and in a largely expanded area of Shoreditch. The council’s special policy areas have much stricter licensing rules therefore licences are harder to get.

It is thought by the group that ‘this will push up the value of licenses and freeze out new and independent businesses without deep pockets.’

A spokesperson for We love Hackney has said: “We know that young people disproportionately use and work in the night-time economy – they didn’t do any kind of evaluation of what the impact of clamping down on nightlife might be on young people they also didn’t do any kind of evaluation on what the impact could be for LGBTQ+ and minority communities in Hackney.

…We know that LGBTQ+ nightlife venues are declining and in crisis across London and these venues are more likely to be owned by the small, independent, community-based operators that we’ve always said this policy will disproportionately penalise. These are our grounds for the judicial review.”

Solicitor at the law firm Leigh Day representing the residents’ group, Anna Dews said: “The public sector equality duty requires the council to consider the equality impact of policies it is proposing to adopt.

“In the case of the special licensing policy the council failed: it had no proper regard to the impact of the decision on young people and the LGBTQ+ community in Hackney, communities which our clients say are the very reason Hackney is such a great place to live, work and visit.”

Multiple local residents have voiced their concerns via twitter about the new rules.

One user tweeted:

A spokesperson for local popular Hackney club BoilerRoom tweeted:

Past campaigning has even attracted celebrity attention, including Franz Ferdinand lead singer Alex Kapranos who joined campaigners in criticising the council when new laws were imposed.

Campaigners hope to raise £20,000 for the cause by November 22, and are so far only around a tenth of the way there.

Legal representation for the group have said this initial sum will kick-start the legal challenge, but it is thought that up to £53,000 will need to be raised all together to pay for the huge legal fees that are involved.

Lawyers contacted for advice about the campaign include Philip Kolvin QC who is the barrister who successfully saved Fabric nightclub in Islington.

The petition and more details can be found here.

Hackney Council were unavailable to comment on this issue.

Leave a Reply