Hackney Council licensing policy row: Campaigners granted judicial review of unpopular decision

Campaigners say Shoreditch's nightlife will become worse under the policy. Picture: Polly Hancock

Campaigners say Shoreditch's nightlife will become worse under the policy. Picture: Polly Hancock - Credit: Archant

Nightlife campaigners are going to the High Court to challenge Hackney Council’s controversial licensing policy that includes “core midnight curfews”.

We Love Hackney, a 4,000-strong group formed in 2015 to fight similar plans, has had its bid for a judicial review approved and is now waiting for a date to be set. The group raised £20,000 towards legal costs with a crowdfunder launched after the policy was signed off in July.

As well as midnight curfews, the unpopular policy – opposed by 75 per cent of people in a consultation – includes a 10pm cut-off for all outdoor drinking and 11pm weekday curfews. “Core hours” will only be extended if licensees can show it won’t cause anti-social behaviour problems. Shoreditch’s special policy area (SPA), where it is essentially harder to open a venue, has doubled in size.

We Love Hackney argues the policy will stifle independent venues who cannot afford legal costs to argue their case for a licence, which will hit LGBTQ+ venues particularly.

Spokesperson Matt Sanders told the Gazette the policy was already having a negative impact, and referenced The Grapevine, a book-themed restaurant that was denied an alcohol licence last month to serve wine with its food.

He said: “They kept repeating there would be no impact on well-run venues but an application was rejected for The Grapevine in Shoreditch and one councillor said that was what the policy was designed for and it didn’t matter what kind of venue it was.

“That’s completely against what they said about wanting a diverse night-time economy and shows it will have exactly the stifling effect we were worried about.

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“We are also arguing it will affect LGBTQ+ venues because they tend to have later opening hours. They are already in decline and they are often small community run indie venues.”