Thursday, 22 October 2009

Live Music

There were some good things that came out of the 2003 licensing act. I can't think of many, but apparently the whole thing was a good idea. Oh, we did get a little more flexibility over licencing hours. I'm not sure that was all that useful to me, but that's another story.

There were quite a few things I didn't like. One was the apparent increase in bureaucracy and the fact that the cost of that was placed squarely on the shoulders of the licensee in the form of outrageous increases in the fees payable. It probably created a few new jobs in the local council offices for people who preferred to shuffle paper rather than do any real work. I suppose it's better to have people who don't like getting their hands dirty tucked safely out of the way, but I'd rather my business didn't pay for it.

A key objection of the 2003 licensing act was to hinder significantly the ability for publicans to put on the occasional live music. If I'd been blogging then, I'd have no doubt had lots to say about it. The two in a bar rule was abolished, and the whole process of ensuring compliance was made way too complicated for many pubs to understand. The basic advice I've ever received is that if I was to have live music of any sort I would need a variation to my licence. Obtaining the variation would cost me money and I'd open a whole can of worms regarding my building that might mean making improvements that could cost tens of thousands of pounds. The advice to me was that adding live entertainment to my licence would be more trouble than it's worth. This is still the current thoughts for most pubs.

We used to have live music here from time to time. It never made me any money and more often than not I lost out. The cost of putting on the music was never covered by the extra people it was supposed to bring in. I could have advertised but I didn't want to attract the attention of the local council environmental health Gestapo who seem determined to ensure that they interpret the rule book in such a way that it inhibits business, rather than encourages it.

I learned today that a significant relaxation to this is possible. There is a suggestion that venues that hold less than 100 people could be exempt. Some are suggesting this doesn't go far enough, the original calls were for the exemption to apply to venues up to 200 people. For me I'm quite happy. I'd like to have the problem of having to say to somebody "Really sorry mate, we've got ninety nine in already, there's a nice pub down the road though."

Please let this exemption go through. I'd like to bring back occasional live music to my place, it's fun. It's never going to make me lots of money, but the atmosphere is much better when it happens. Not only do the current rules make it harder for pubs to operate, it is also killing live music.

The guys in the pictures are my very good friends from the band called Vortigern. They don't make money out of what they do, mostly they have real jobs that do involve getting their hands dirty, especially as one sells carpets. The money they might earn from gigs just goes into buying a new effects pedal or the most monstrous bass speaker stack that ever existed in Cumbria. They don't get many gigs these days, mainly because the local council keep jumping on any pub that tries to hire them.

1 comment:

Bailey said...

My Dad's played in various bands over the years and often plays pubs in Somerset. For whatever reason, live music does seem to pull the punters in down there (more so than it does in London), but I'd be surprised if many or any of those landlords were doing all the paperwork properly. I wonder if the council have just decided there are more important things to do than bother landlords who are trying to make a living? Be nice to think so...