The trouble with the Licensing Act 2000 is that it was driven largely by the Government’s desire to come up with populist measures without properly thinking through the consequences. Twenty-four hour opening of pubs – luvverly-jubbly, Ministers must have thought.
It was left to local councils to administer a piece of legislation framed in such a way as to make it extremely difficult to refuse the extension of an existing licence. The impact of this liberalisation in Birmingham has been dramatic, particularly in suburban areas like Moseley, which has become a late-night music spot of choice for the young and not so young.
The Government, in its wisdom, also gave councils new powers to take licences away or order premises to reduce their opening times if complaints from people living nearby about noise and anti-social behaviour were upheld.
This has proved effective in parts of Birmingham where clubs and late-night drinking dens are clearly out of step with residential areas – where it is reasonable to insist the music stops at midnight. There is, however, a very grey area in the city centre where some of the thousands of people who have moved into new apartments since 2000 are finding that the early hours of the morning are noisier than they bargained for.
What, you might ask, did they expect? Blocks of flats built next to well-established nightclubs are highly likely to result in noisy neighbour disputes, as owners of Meechu club have found to their cost.
City council licensing committees are in a difficult position, but they must remember that the city centre is not primarily a residential area.