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LICENSING LAWS AT LAST SOME RELIEF FOR VENUES, PUNTERS AND PLAYERS!Repeal of draconian entertainment licensing laws inches closer

Lord Clement-Jones’ live music bill inches closer to becoming law with its Committee stage in the House of Lords this Friday morning, 15 July: http://services.parliament.uk/bills/2010-11/livemusichl.html

The bill would roll back draconian licensing restrictions imposed on live music by the Labour government’s 2003 Licensing Act. It is supported by the music industry, campaigners and performers’ unions.

As amended, it would exempt from entertainment licensing performances of live music between 8am and 11pm to audiences of up to 200. The exemption could be disapplied in pubs and bars if noise complaints were upheld at a licence review.  Performances in hospitals, schools, and other workplaces, often caught by the existing regime, would be exempt.  The entertainment facilities provisions would be removed entirely. Unamplified performance would be exempt, subject to the hours condition, and recorded as well as live music could accompany morris dancing (only unamplified accompaniment is allowed at present).

A number of amendments will be put forward at Committee:

Most are technical, reflecting the complexity of the Licensing Act’s music provisions, but include changing the exemption cut-off time from midnight to 11pm. This was one of the conditions required for government support announced by Baroness Rawlings during the bill’s 2nd Reading on 04 March: http://bit.ly/ol4H3A

After Committee, two further stages remain in the House of Lords, Report and 3rd reading, before the bill can go to the House of Commons.

There is no sign yet of the more radical entertainment licensing deregulation consultation promised by culture minister John Penrose in May (see The Stage 26 May: http://www.thestage.co.uk/news/newsstory.php/32313/dcms-looks-to-cull-live-entertainment )

A number of recent developments emphasise the urgent need for reform. The Olympic Stadium, for example, has failed to apply for entertainment facilities authorisation for live music: http://bit.ly/o4c3nw [see p4, box i]

Without such authorisation, no live music using stadium-provided amplification, staging or lighting, could take place.  Last week I asked Newham Council for comment. To date they have not replied.

In St Leonards, Cafe Relax is applying for a variation to permit a DJ 7 days a week between 11:00 and 23:00hrs. Live music is to be restricted to Thu to Sat 19:00 to 22:00hrs, and Sun 14:00 to 17:00. It is further restricted to a maximum of 3 musicians plus a potential jazz genre restriction: http://bit.ly/pc6gmp

Hounslow Council has banned outdoors live music at Kings House School Sports Ground. Restrictions on indoor live music include: ‘Events will not be open to the general public’ and ’Security and trained staff will be present at all events’: http://bit.ly/qJIz3h

South Oxfordshire District Council has restricted live music to two days a week at Magoo’s, Henley-on-Thames. This is further restricted apparently to no more than two musicians playing acoustic guitar and saxophone, but not both at once!

Last but not least, the Red Lion in Whitehall, where in 2001 the Lords Redesdale and Colwyn, in the company of Billy Bragg and others, famously got ‘thrown out’ to draw attention to the daft ‘two in a bar rule’, is STILL restricted to two musicians.  It is free to host 3 or more DJs, however, and – like every pub or bar - unlimited big screen broadcast entertainment. See: http://bit.ly/rsI3ak

My thanks to campaigners John King, Charlotte Collingwood and Roger Gall for these examples.

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