Liberalising Croydon’s night-time economy

By - Monday 8th January, 2018

Freeing up Croydon for new after-dark venues can only be a good thing

Image author’s own.

Croydon Council has written – but not yet published – a Review of Licensing & Policing of Croydon’s Night-Time Economy. The review was written by a cross-party committee, chaired by Councillor Callton Young OBE.

The report covers the approach to policing venues wishing to play ‘bashment, grime and similar genres of music’ with particular notice of events at the Dice Bar & Club. It highlights significant problems with the approach to the policing of venues – however, potentially the most impactful recommendations are those on the council’s ‘Statement of Licensing Policy’. These include:

  • removing the presumption against granting new premises licences in Croydon town centre at hearings where an application is for premises that will be used exclusively or primarily for the sale of alcohol and/or loud amplified recorded music in order to encourage fresh growth and diversity in the borough’s night-time economy (NTE).
  • removing the presumption of favourable consideration for ‘diverse types of premises, i.e. for older clientele/over-21s, live music, restaurants, etc’ and a  preference for considering each case on its merits as part of an NTE strategy, including a positive note to explicitly welcome all music genres at events in the borough, including those associated with DJs and MCs.
This represents a positive step forward in granting licenses for venues

Broadly, these represent a positive step forward in liberalising the granting of licences for venues in Croydon. This is a positive change from the current licensing policy, which includes a presumption to refuse new applications in the town centre for ‘premises used exclusively or primarily for the sale/supply of alcohol and/or loud amplified recorded music’. This first came into effect in 2004.

The council has already put out to consultation the implementation of some of the changes – which makes all the stranger the decision not to publish the report.

Removing councillors’ preferences from the decision-making process is a big step forward. People of my generation will remember a central Croydon of a few pubs and the Blue Orchid nightclub growing to become a booming town centre, before falling back to the relatively few bars we have today. Many of these changes have been driven by demographics, but the council’s decision (running through both Labour and Conservative administrations) that it knows best on what venues to open in Croydon hasn’t helped.

Government intervention often fails to improve things

The Licensing Act 1872 – among other things – stopped the practise of adding salt to drinks, which was originally put in beer to increase thirst and sales. This ‘improvement’ was made by the government to help us as consumers. I often think of how government intervention fails to improve things, as I pay for my own salted crisps to accompany a pint in the Skylark.

Those granting licences need to ensure any undesirable externalities (e.g. loud music/noise, drunken behaviour) are minimised and managed. This is different from the council deciding which music is preferable, what clientele a venue should target, or inhibiting venues from opening in a town centre largely away from residential streets. The decision on what music to play, or clients to target, should be the sole responsibility of the people who have put up the funding and time to open the venue.

I would like to see these recommendations go further in liberalising the licensing rules to remove the presumption that the council can somehow direct the night-time economy. For now, though, the report and subsequent consultation are to be commended. These take a big step forward in getting the council out of the way, and allowing businesses to rebuild Croydon as a night-time venue.

Michael Swadling

Michael Swadling

Michael works in the IT Industry for and has lived in Croydon all of his life. He has been a governor in local schools for over ten years. During the referendum he was the Croydon Area Manager for Grassroots Out, Leave.EU and Vote Leave. He is a member of UKIP campaigning for the UK to leave the European Union and he was the UKIP candidate for Croydon North in 2017. The Croydon Leave campaign can be followed on Facebook.

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  • Steve Thompson

    My concern is that we need a diversity of night-time venues, not just more night clubs (no doubt with ever more stupid dress codes) playing generic dance music or the urban genres. We need a very broad mix, from the likes of Matthews Yard to (yes) grime venues, and importantly a couple of decent sized venues for rock music. Boxpark is not filling the gap – it seems to cater purely for the 18-25 age group and cares little for the wider community.
    I fear that these proposals will narrow, not widen the range of night-time activities.

    • Michael Swadling

      Steve – I understand the desire but it was the desire to ‘force’ diversity that lead to the slow decline of the town centre. Entrepreneurs and big business will only open venues that believe will make money. The council can’t dictate it, no one will open a venue they don’t think will succeed. Ultimately only a thriving town centre with enough passing trade is likely to lead to the opening of ‘different’ venues that are riskier propositions. Few people would open something alternative and with a higher risk in a town centre where the existing venues aren’t already full.