Cumulative success in the remote licensing sphere

Suzanne Davies reflects on her highly impressive recent run of successful remote licensing hearings, including the grant of a series of new premises licences in some of London’s toughest Cumulative Impact Areas, two of which were for 24 hours opening.

“Good morning, Mr Smith.  Welcome to the meeting.” [Pause]

“Good morning, Mr Smith.  Welcome to the meeting.”  [Pause]

“Mr Smith, can you unmute your phone, please.  You need to press the microphone icon at the bottom of the screen.”

“Hello, hello? Can you hear me? Is my mic on?  I don’t think it’s on. I don’t think they can hear me. I think I’ve pressed the right button.  Or have I?  [Noise of mouse being clicked repeatedly] Hello, hello?”

“Good morning, Mr Smith.  Yes, we can hear you.  I will need you to mute your mic for the duration of the hearing and unmute when you are invited to speak.  Thank you” [Noise of exasperated sigh]

 

Welcome to the wonderful world of remote licensing hearings, brought to you by ‘Teams’ offering a glimpse of the ‘new normal’.  Nothing will replace the energy of presenting at an in-person hearing in my view. However, particularly bearing in mind that some licensing authorities are still refusing to accept licensing applications (as reported by the Institute of Licensing), I applaud those who have managed to get on board with remote hearings and sort out the technology enabling the industry to move their businesses forward in immensely trying times.

This has been entirely in line with the encouragement provided by Kit Malthouse MP, Minister for Crime & Policing, in his letter of 8 April 2020 to Chairs of Licensing Committees throughout the country, in which he reminded them that the Coronavirus Act 2020 provides express provision for remote licensing hearings to take place adding: “My view is that hearings should proceed, wherever possible”.

I have recently ‘appeared’ at four remote Licensing hearings in quick succession: two in Westminster and one in each of Hammersmith & Fulham and Camden. I am delighted to say that they were all wholly successful, not only in relation to the technology used but also – even more importantly – the outcomes from my respective clients’ perspectives.

  1. The first was a 24 hours premises licence application by Odeon Cinemas for a new two-screen ‘Odeon Luxe’ in Leicester Square, London. Not surprisingly given its location within a Cumulative Impact Area, this had attracted objections from not only the Police and the EHO, but also the Licensing Service itself. I am delighted to confirm that the application was nevertheless granted subject to agreed conditions and I very much look forward to sipping a glass of wine in my reclining seat when this new luxury cinema opens in Spring 2021.
  2. The second was also for a new 24 hours premises licence, again for Odeon Cinemas, but this time for a five-screen cinema complex at Marble Arch, London on the same site that had previously housed a very well-known Odeon Cinema until a major redevelopment of the site was commenced recently.  Notwithstanding that, because these premises are in another of Westminster’s Cumulative Impact areas, this application also attracted objections from not only the Police, the EHO and the Licensing Service itself. I am equally delighted to say that this application was also granted subject to agreed conditions and I look forward to enjoying waiter/waitress service in my luxury studio cinema seat whilst gazing at James Bond in months to come.
  3. My third was a licensing application of a very different sort – a contested SEV licence renewal that had received objections from both the Police and a local resident. Having successfully negotiated away the Police objection, the hearing all boiled down to the Licensing Sub-Committee’s view of the local resident’s objection. Suffice to say, we succeeded. Another very satisfied client.
  4. Then, to complete my ‘full house’, I successfully argued on behalf of landlords of premises in the heart of the Covent Garden Cumulative Impact Area for the grant of a ‘shadow licence’, in the process overcoming objections from the Police, five local residents, a Residents’ Association and the Licensing Service itself.  The licence was granted subject to agreed conditions, which was just as well because the tenant went into administration, making even more worthwhile the decision to obtain a shadow licence.

I am delighted for clients that it has been possible to progress applications remotely, successfully achieving their goals, enabling them to protect and grow their businesses.  Do please get in touch – [email protected] – if you’d like to discuss a future licensing application with me.

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