An outdoor drinking ban in Soho?

Last week, I became aware of a protest group on the Facebook website which is protesting against plans by Westminster Council to ban outdoor drinking in Soho. The facebook group says “this petition has been created by the licensee’s of Soho” – and apparently has been set up by the licensee of The Endurance pub in Berwick St.

A ban on outdoor drinking sounded a bit odd though, especially following the ban on smoking indoors and also based on the recent lecture I attended on drinking culture in cities where Westminster Council was praised for its forward thinking approach.

So, this peeked my interest and I started to try and read up on the subject – only I couldn’t really find any websites that confirmed the claims. I did indeed find lots of websites talking about the ban, but when you read them, it turned out that they all cited the same facebook group as their source. I wandered over to The Publican website, which is an industry trade magazine and again nothing was to be found about this proposed ban. Odd considering that it would, in theory affect dozens (if not hundreds) of venues, so they of all people should know about it.

I then wandered over to the Westminster Council website and couldn’t really find anything there to support the claims, and a (very) brief reading of their 2008 licensing policy didn’t mention plans for an outdoor drinking ban – other than the usual comments about noise and complaints. Indeed, the policy document had a section about how to secure planning permission for outdoor seating!

I posted a message on the facebook group – which now has over 3,800 supporters – asking if anyone had actually managed to verify the claims yet. I also note that a petition on the 10 Downing St website now have over 7,200 signatures. Thousands of people are protesting about the ban and yet I hadn’t heard a thing about it. Considering my passion for news, this seemed a bit odd.

At the weekend, I fired off an email to Westminster Council asking for verification of the claims, and got a reply this morning.

The claims of a Soho outdoor drinking ban are utterly false.

Cllr Daniel Astaire, Cabinet Member for Community Protection, said: “Westminster has no plans to ban outside drinking in Soho or in the city as a whole. These are ridiculous rumours that are totally inaccurate and wholly misleading. “Indeed, the council is actively trying to promote responsible alfresco-style dining and drinking in certain parts of the city by creating calm oases away from the hustle and bustle of the main streets.

It actually seems that The Endurance pub has alone been subject to complaints from local residents (it sits under a council block tower) and its license is being reviewed. A bit more trawling suggests that actually just one person is complaining – although I haven’t been able to verify this. It should also be noted that Berwick St has a noisy and dynamic street market every day, so a pub would have to be staggeringly loud to even be noticeable above the shouts of the traders offering potatoes for a pound.

I make no observation on the validity of the complaint(s) – but for a pub to blatantly lie about an outdoor drinking ban in a desperate attempt to cling on to its own license is downright mischievous. It probably doesn’t help their appeal when it is heard later this month either.

However, what does that say about the many thousands of people who blindly sign up to petition website without even checking the facts first?

Whats's on in London: today or tomorrow or this weekend

Posted in Politics
3 comments on “An outdoor drinking ban in Soho?
  1. Humphrey Barber says:

    I found your comments on the drinking ‘ban’ interesting as I too am having issues with the Westminster Licensing.
    While there is no actual ban per se, Westminster Council have taken advantage of the fact that control of licensing has now fallen to them to eradicate outdoor drinking through rather insidious and creepy nuisance laws.
    This means that one pissed-off neighbour (bear in mind the pub was here and busy when they moved in) can call our license into doubt while hundreds of people are enjoying the ambience we provide. Having taken the required steps to appease the council I am now suffering a drop in trade.
    Yet another victory for the little Hitlers – if the landlord of the Endurance has to call Westminsters approach to licensing a ‘ban’ in order to draw attention to the steady erosion of our civil liberties and his ability to run a business as it has been run in the past, then fair play to him.

  2. IanVisits says:

    I used to work in the liquour trade myself, and I learnt that good relations with the neighours is absolutly vital.

    If indeed this is a single “cranky” neigbour who is complaining, then it should be incredibly easy to defeat the complaint by seeking support from all the rest who are unaffected. It is a quite noisy area at the best of times, so either the pub is really being a problem, or the complainant has very specific complaints.

    However, considering the eviroment the pub is in – a complaint from a single person should be so simple to defeat as to not even be worth worrying about.

    So, why is it that the council is taking action?

    I suspect there is a lot more here than is currently known.

    However, to set up a petition which is patently a lie though – now that is just childish.

  3. Adam says:

    Unfortuently Westminster are very resident friendly.
    There is also a controlled drinking zone in operation which affectively means drinking on the street is prohibited so if the pub cannot use its garden then there is no place for smokers to go – which seems to be Westminsters aim.

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