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Latest on entertainment law

The emphasis in the future will be even more focused on the effects of alcohol consumption, not the playing of music

If it looks like we have been talking about entertainment deregulation for years, we have. Ever since the Licensing Act came into force in 2005 there have been calls for the strict, prescriptive and sometimes nonsensical definitions of certain types of entertainment to be clarified and deregulated. Government Ministers themselves asked why, for example, a folk duo in a village pub needed a licence but a big screen live football match broadcast in a city-centre “barn” of a pub did not; why a Carol concert in a church hall needed a licence but if it was moved to the church it did not, and why a travelling circus needed a licence but not a fun fair. Why, indeed, might a nursery need permission under the Licensing Act to show In the Night Garden to a group of toddlers? The pressure to change became so great that in September 2011 the Government issued a consultation suggesting that all entertainment except boxing and wrestling and sexual entertainment be deregulated without any time limit for audiences up to 4,999. Such a proposal had little chance of running the gauntlet of the Local Government Association, the Police and numerous resident organisations, but it showed the will to change at the highest level. Since then we have had the Live Music Act in 2012, a limited deregulation of plays, performances of dance and indoor sporting events in 2013 and, on the 6 April 2015 what is likely to be the final phase of the Government’s deregulation of regulated entertainment under the 2003 Act.

I thought it might help if I attempted to set out the licensing position so far as regulated entertainment goes for the typical pub or bar from 6 April 2015 onwards. This can only be a summary – the law is immensely complex (quite possibly the most complex area of licensing law) and if you have any disputes with residents, the Noise Pollution Officer or the Local Council then you will need to seek legal advice.

Live Music

Live amplified music in on-licensed premises authorised and open for the sale of alcohol will not require a licence for audiences up to 500 (a 300 increase) until 11:00pm. This includes beer gardens and terraces if they are included in the licensed premises. Live-music related conditions will not apply unless they are re-imposed at a Review. If your beer garden is not shown on your plans then it is likely to nevertheless be a workplace which benefits from a similar exemption. Karaoke is considered live music. Live unamplified music does not need a licence anywhere and with no audience limit between 08:00 to 23:00.

Entertainment Facilities

Entertainment facilities (stages, karaoke machines, microphone stands, even electrical sockets) have not been licensable since October 2012. You may still see these “authorised” on your licence if it has not been amended but they are no longer relevant to licensing.

Recorded Music

Recorded music in on-licensed premises will benefit from the same exemption as live music above, with the same audience limit. This will cover DJs and discos and will be a new development, as hitherto most recorded music above background level has been licensable under the Act. There is no equivalent “workplace” exemption.

Performance of Plays, Indoor Sporting Events and Performances of Dance

“Plays” could include Noddy at a holiday camp but also a themed “ghost story–reading night” with paid actors at a pub. “Performances of Dance” includes any non-customer dancing that is intended to entertain an audience. Since June 2013 no over-officious licensing officer has been able to threaten immediate closure or require a variation application if such activities are not authorised on your licence – for audiences up to 500 (and in the case of indoor sporting events, up to 1,000) from 8am until 11:00pm none of these activities require authorisation under the Licensing Act. Lap-dancing and other forms of sexual entertainment on up to 11 occasions a year remain regulated under the 2003 Act (any more will usually require a Sexual Entertainment Venue licence).

Films

The showing of pre-recorded films which are incidental to some other activity (for example, drinking, eating or playing pool) will not be licensable. This will very much be dependent on the facts of each case but the real test will be, Is the showing of any pre-recorded film likely to undermine one of the licensing objectives?

Boxing & Wrestling

Apart from those Greco-Roman and freestyle wrestling fans amongst you, this activity remains regulated under the Act (and now explicitly includes mixed martial arts).

Summary

Post April 2015 there are many other deregulatory changes for local authorities, schools, hospitals and community premises which provide entertainment – keep an eye out for those organisations exploiting their soon-to-be newfound freedom. For pubs and bars, however, the emphasis in the future will be even more focussed on the effects of alcohol consumption and not the playing of a little bit of music.

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