Licensees and locals come face to face over Hackney’s night-time economy dispute

PUBLISHED: 14:58 01 March 2016 | UPDATED: 18:28 25 July 2018

Bar owner Paul Daly has been in Hoxton Square since 1988 and has seen it go from a 'dump to a booming night-time economy'

Bar owner Paul Daly has been in Hoxton Square since 1988 and has seen it go from a 'dump to a booming night-time economy'


What do you do when booming night-time economies emerge in historically residential areas? That’s the question Hackney Council is still trying to answer.

Kingsland High Street is one of the most affected areasKingsland High Street is one of the most affected areas

Six months after scrapping controversial licensing proposals for new pubs, clubs and bars to close at 11pm on weeknights, the town hall has turned to the people at the heart of the debate for guidance.

Last week the authority held a meeting in the eye of the storm – BL-NK, a creative hub in Curtain Road, Shoreditch.

On one side were the business owners, who have been thriving as a result of the boom (pubs, clubs and restaurants were the second highest growing sector for employment in 2015, after finance and insurance.)

On the other were locals, most of whom had lived in the borough long before it became the world-famous destination for creatives it is today.

The plan is to use the feedback from the night, part of the Hackney: A Place for Everyone programme, to shape the development of future licensing policy.

A compulsory night-time levy to fund wardens, rules over the diversity of businesses on streets and staggered closing times were some of the more popular suggestions. But what did the people who were there make of it all?

Paul Daly outside his bar, Zigfrid von UnderbellyPaul Daly outside his bar, Zigfrid von Underbelly

Paul Daly, owner of Paul Daly Venues:

Paul has lived in Hoxton Square since arriving as a squatter in 1988 and owns Zigfrid von Underbelly and Roadtrip and the Workshop.

He said: “The meeting was fantastic. I thought it was ridiculous that they didn’t consult businesses last year.

“I’m big into talking to people and speak to all the residents around here. If someone says something I deal with it and sort it out.

“This is the hippest borough in the country with a massive youth culture and we should not lose that.

“If you talk to people they realise you’re not some ogre or absent director who doesn’t care. Discourse is the biggest thing for me.

“When I came there was nothing. Other people started to come in 1993 with Glass House, all artists, then the bars started coming.

“The boom started in about 2000 and is still going, it’s gone from no bars to about 250.

“In the early ‘00s people thought we were going to go away because it was a phenomenon, but it’s not. It’s gone from being a total dump to a world class borough. You couldn’t make it up.”

Jussi Tolvi at Jones Family Project bar in Shoreditch. Picture: Laura WilloughbyJussi Tolvi at Jones Family Project bar in Shoreditch. Picture: Laura Willoughby

Jussi Tolvi, of Club Soda, a social business focusing on people’s drinking habits:

Jussi has done a report into the availability of non-alcoholic drinks in Dalston’s bars.

He said: “It’s clearly great for Hackney to have such a vibrant night time economy but it seems like it’s a problem for the residents. Dalston has a lot of bars in a small area.

“There are quite a few people who don’t drink or want to cut down but they told us it’s really boring to go to bars and not drink because they only have Pepsi or ginger beer. I think a lot of the issues for residents come out of excessive drinking. “It’s difficult because you can’t ban it, there are no easy answers. I feel sorry for the council, if they close bars early then you get rid of the drink problems, but you upset the businesses.”

The Rio Cross Residents' Assocation is based in the area surrounding the Rio cinemaThe Rio Cross Residents' Assocation is based in the area surrounding the Rio cinema

Ursula Huws, Rio Cross Residents’ Association (Dalston):

“The more places to be shut down the better as far as I am concerned.

“We need to keep a diverse local economy. Don’t put another bar in a street if there’s four in a row already.

“We hope the new consultation will create more resident-friendly events in residential parts of the borough. However much people say they are out of work musicians the reality is they are a waiter or a doorman working at night. It isn’t part of the creative economy.

“Some residents whose streets are disturbed by drinkers are creative, but are prevented from being creative by having a bunch of drunk 20 year olds peeing on their doorsteps at night.

“Our patch runs up the A10 and it is seriously affecting us, so we are unlike Shoreditch in that. Dalston, Stoke Newington and Clapton are residential areas with large communities. There’s a lot to destroy.”

Suna Shanahan in the community garden at Hemsworth Court in HackneySuna Shanahan in the community garden at Hemsworth Court in Hackney

Suna Shanahan, committee member of Hobbs Place Tenants and Residents’ Association (Hoxton):

“I thought it was a very good meeting, but we will wait and see what the feedback is. It’s a really good thing to give the residents and businesses the chance to chat, and it’s something they could do on a regular basis, maybe every three months,

“For me there’s far too many bars. We need more retail and things for young people to do, because there’s not that many round Hoxton East and Shoreditch, which is my ward.

“There has been really positive changes in the area but you see these small shops like a hole in the wall with a few chairs outside and they call themselves a restaurant or bar.

“We need more things for kids, there’s a massive anti-social behaviour problem here and I think it’s all connected. I think the issue of off licences that was raised is a big problem too. Some of them stay open all night serving alcohol to drunk people.”

What do you think should be done to find a common ground between the pubs, clubs, bars and restaurants and the communities they are in? Contact Sam on 020 8477 3969 or email

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