EMROs/Late Night Levy / Pubs / 21 November 2016

Saving the Night Time Economy

It’s 1am on a cold Saturday morning in October and Amsterdam’s Rembrandtplein is alive with the chatter of locals and tourists. Many are heading for two of Amsterdam’s most well-known nightclubs and join the vast entry queues.

All around them, an abundance of pubs, bars, coffee shops, restaurants and lesser music venues flourish. A similar story can be told in Berlin, in Prague and in Paris, where vibrant and diverse Night Time Economies (NTE) thrive.

In the UK, pubs alone contribute over £23 billion to the economy on an annual basis, and create around 900,000 jobs. Whilst cities such as Amsterdam, Berlin and Prague all continue to invest in an increasingly successful, diverse and vibrant night-time offer, we have seen a steady decline of London’s NTE. However, things are starting to change.

Helping the NTE was a key pledge in London Mayor Sadiq Khan’s election campaign, and one that he seems determined to deliver. Indeed, he has now appointed a Night Time Commission, and a London Night Czar. It is certainly a positive step but change will not be easy to achieve and there are some clear issues that must be addressed.

I recently attended an event hosted by renowned licensing lawyers, Poppleston Allen in Covent Garden. It was here that I was introduced to the ‘Manifesto for the Night Time Economy’, written by Philip Kolvin QC of Cornerstone Barristers. The document gives some interesting insights into what a successful NTE in London could look like and it certainly highlights that there is plenty of scope to improve the situation, especially when compared to other cities across Europe. A change in approach is undoubtedly necessary.

Most critical of all, licensing is the primary regulatory tool in the NTE and, rather than working to expand a diverse and vibrant night-time offer, it is not built to recognise the value of the NTE. As a result, the perception of London’s NTE is negative and it is seen as something to be restricted and minimised.

In contrast, planning is the central tool in the day-time economy, working to build a diverse offer. There is no doubt that regulation is imperative, whether this is through licensing, policing or health and safety. It should not, however, incur unsustainable costs on businesses and should recognise good operators whilst assisting in bringing less successful operators up to scratch.

This issue is not irreversible but it will require a major step change in how the NTE is managed. If the shared vision is of a safe and diverse NTE that caters for every sector of the population, emphasis can be placed on growth. Pubs and bars are critical, as they offer a number of diverse services, including live music, entertainment, great food and a safe environment in which to socialise.

Linked to this point is the importance of effective partnership working between all stakeholders. In order to achieve a positive shared vision of the NTE, it is important that all planning and regulatory authorities work together and alongside businesses.

Many businesses in the NTE, and particularly the pub trade, are fully committed to effective partnership frameworks in order to create a safe and vibrant environment. National Pubwatch, Best Bar None and Business Improvement Districts are just three examples. Close partnership working with a shared strategic vision for investment in a diverse and vibrant NTE is crucial to success.

Lastly, perception is key. Cities and their successful nigh-time offers are achievements to be celebrated. The NTE is capable of presenting an attractive offer to everyone. Once a positive shared vision has been decided upon, stakeholders must work to overturn the negative perceptions that are synonymous with London’s NTE. Only then will we be able to match those cities in Europe leading the way to ensure a safe, diverse, vibrant NTE for all.

You can access the full version of the ‘Manifesto for the Night Time Economy’ here.

Written by

Philippa Borrowman

Policy and information officer

Further Reading