Spitalfields, along with neighbouring Shoreditch, is rightly famed for its vibrant nightlife. Over the last 20 years there has been a dramatic proliferation of bars, clubs, pubs and restaurants that has led to the area becoming the second largest night-time economy in the UK, behind only Soho. These bring a vibrancy to the area that makes Spitalfields the unique place it is today. They also attract large numbers of visitors to the area which in turn offers commercial opportunities to a variety of local businesses. However, the night-time economy brings problems too. Alcohol-fuelled anti-social behaviour negatively affects local residents and stretches police and council resources. A balance needs to be struck between the commercial needs of licensees and the amenity of the local population.
Cumulative Impact Zone
SCG recognises that the vast majority of bar and restaurant owners operate in a responsible manner. Their patrons enjoy their visits to Spitalfields and do not disrupt the lives of the residents. However our Quality of Life surveys of 2013 and 2015 both both found that drunken anti-social behaviour is a major problem - the most significant negative factor affecting residents' lives in Spitalfields. In an attempt to redress this imbalance SCG, along with other local groups, campaigned for the introduction of a Cumulative Impact Zone, a policy that was eventually enacted in November 2013. The zone covers the majority of the commercial streets in the ward including Brick Lane and Spitalfields Market. The effect of the Cumulative Impact Zone is to put the onus on licence applicants to demonstrate that their business will act responsibly and not add to eisting problems.
SCG is committed to opposing licence applications that we believe will increased levels of anti-social behaviour in the area. In particular we have concerns over applications that seek to sell alcohol outside core licensing hours as late-night noise is a particular problem for many residents. We also generally oppose licence applications that have an off-sales element to ensure that all drinking takes place in a controlled, licensed environment rather than on the street. In the case of dedicated off-licences we also oppose the sale of high strength lagers and ciders as Spitalfields has a large number of vulnerable homeless people who constantly battle alcohol addiction.
Where possible SCG negotiates with licence applicants to try to find a series of conditions that can be placed on a licence to both protect the amenity of local residents and allow the licensee to carry out their trade. This has proved a successful strategy in many cases. Where such an agreement is not possible the group will object to the application if the committee deems necessary. We have recently opposed the following licence applications:
Full details of these all licence applications can be found on the searchable LBTH Licensing database. Representations should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org and need to explain how the application will have an impact on at least one of the licensing objectives:
SCG was heavily involved in the campaign to close Public Life, a bar/nightclub located in a former underground toilet in front of Christ Church Spitalfields. The premises had been the source of significant anti-social behaviour for many years and had caused regular disturbances to residents throughout the area. LBTH had imposed various conditions on the licence in an attempt to curb this behaviour; these were regularly ignored. In late 2011 a group of residents, supported by SCG, petitioned LBTH for a review of the licence. At the same time a raid on the premises by the Metropolitan Police led to several arrests for alleged drugs offences and a simultaneous review of the licence by the Licensing Officer. The licence was revoked.
SCG has since fought several attempts to re-open the premises and will continue to oppose any application that is likely to have a cumulative impact on anti-social behaviour.
In October 2012, following a public meeting, SCG and the Spitalfields Society set up SPIRE, a group tasked with tackling anti-social behaviour in Spitalfields. SPIRE is a committee consisting of representatives of the two founding groups as well as several other residents associations: SGRA, MRA, Woodseer St Residents and the Exchange Building Residents' Association. SPIRE has been instrumental in the campaigns for the Cumulative Impact Zone, for the introduction of Late Night Levies, and in raising the profile of the problems associated with the night-time economy, especially among LBTH councillors and officers. You can read more about SPIRE here.