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Hackney Council Greenlight New Policies in Major Setback for Borough’s Nightlife

Local residents are ignored as councillors unanimously vote for the “most restrictive licensing policy in the U.K.”

Hackney’s nightlife could be majorly impacted by the new restrictions on licensing and imposition of curfews
Ben McMahon/Smoking Goat

Updated 20.7.2018: with a statement from Hackney Council, and from the Mayor of Hackney.

On Wednesday evening, councillors from the east London borough of Hackney voted in favour of controversial proposals, like restricting curfews, and the prevention of granting new licenses.

Hackney — which includes the likes of Mare Street, Shoreditch High Street, and Kingsland Road — is, especially at night, home to one of London’s most thriving nightlife scenes: buzzing restaurants, lively bars and thumping clubs. But all that is under threat from Hackney Council’s latest licensing policies voted in on Wednesday night.

As a result of the unanimous decision, the council will extend Shoreditch’s Special Policy Area (SPA), which requires new venues to prove they won’t add to a “cumulative negative impact” of other licensed establishments, as well as impose strict curfews. Pubs and clubs must close by 11pm on weekdays and midnight at weekends. Outdoor activities like night markets will be restricted by a 10pm curfew.

The proposals have been introduced as part of a mandatory review of licensing policies under the Licensing Act 2003. And they’ve been voted in despite an overwhelmingly negative response from local residents and businesses in the council’s consultation report in January. It found that 77.5 percent were against expansion of Shoreditch’s SPA and 84.32 percent were against the proposed curfews.

Local group We Love Hackney has been campaigning against the policies since they were announced in January. Yesterday, the group posted an open letter on Twitter, urging the council to oppose the changes and encouraging Hackney residents to email their local representatives. The group also live tweeted the results.

Jonathan Downey, co-founder of We Love Hackney and of London Union which includes Shoreditch’s Dinerama, said in a statement to Eater: “I’ve lived in Hackney for nearly 20 years and been a business owner here for over five years. Hackney — once the best example of an enlightened borough — now has the most restrictive licensing policy in the U.K.”

“I am certain that this decision will have a devastating impact on new nightlife in Hackney. Over the next few years, unless we are able to get this thing overturned, we will see a stagnation of the late night economy — no new late bars, no new clubs or venues — as it becomes very difficult, across the whole of Hackney, to get any licence beyond midnight, and in some very important areas (almost all of Shoreditch and some of Dalston) impossible.”

Downey also said on Twitter: “This is a disgraceful decision and a shameful failure of elected officials to listen to the views of residents. It is disastrous for the life and vibrancy of Hackney nightlife. This is not over though and we will not be ignored.”

It’s been noted that Night Czar Amy Lamé stayed relatively quiet on the matter, only tweeting, “Local authorities are responsible for licensing decisions, not the @mayoroflondon or the @nightczar.” Critics have pointed to this going against the Mayor of London’s “London Is Open” campaign.

The council did not respond to questions regarding Hackney mayor, Philip Glanville’s alleged comments in support of We Love Hackney’s campaign — and whether he’s been pressured by corporates or other councillors.

Eater was referred to a statement from councillor Emma Plouviez, Licensing Chair of Hackney Council said: Hackney has a fantastic nightlife. Our bars, clubs, restaurants and theatres are known across London and the world, and as a Council we are proud to champion the businesses that make such a contribution to our borough. However, as it has grown, it is becoming more and more difficult to manage and to strike a balance between supporting our late night venues and the needs of residents who live amongst them.

Mayor Glanville, though, drew ire from many of those displeased by the vote, yesterday, tweeting that his slow response to We Love Hackney’s taunt on Wednesday evening were as a result of his being in “Spoons” — a reference to the pub chain, Wetherspoons, which is owned by the Brexit-supporting publican Tim Martin.

London is increasingly being seen as a 24-hour city, but the new policies could mean a step backwards for Hackney — one of its nightlife centres.