Smaller pubs, restaurants and other venues may no longer have to apply and pay for an entertainment licence, under Government plans to scrap parts of the Licensing Act 2003.
The Department for Culture Media and Sport (DCMS) this week published a consultation paper on the proposals which asks what consequences there would be if activities like live music, cinema and theatre were no longer regulated.
The move comes following a review of red tape affecting the hospitality industry, announced last year as part of the Tourism Strategy. Tourism minister John Penrose said: "Current entertainment licensing rules are a mess. Pointless bureaucracy and licence fees deaden people's desire to get involved. Deregulation will make it easier for new talent to get started and help pubs diversify into other activities."
The proposals were welcomed by the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR). Strategic affairs director Kate Nicholls said: "These radical government proposals will be music to the ears of many operators, who for too long have been restricted by the unwieldy and costly bureaucracy associated with hosting live entertainment."
Steven Walter, managing director of Cheshire-based music booking agency Genre Music, which books acts nationwide for businesses like Living Room, Blackhouse Grills and Loch Fyne added: "It is going to be more smaller independent operations that this will be the most benefit for. Anything that reduces red tape and makes life easier acts as a real encouragement."
Meanwhile Feargal Sharkey, chief executive of UK Music and former lead singer of 1980s pop punk band the Undertones said he was "delighted" with the Government's approach.
The closing date for responses to the consultation is 3 December.
how things stand and what could change?
Since the introduction of the Licensing Act 2003, there has been continued criticism of the legislation which sees venues being forced to apply to their local authority for a licence or amendment to their existing alcohol licence in order to stage events, even if it is just one or two artists singing in a pub.
Some local authorities are known to hold up proceedings for long periods of time, while often a charge of £100 to £1,000 applies, according to which local authority and activity is involved.
The new consultation will ask what would happen if activities like live music, dance performances, film, indoor sports, theatre and playing recorded music are no longer regulated.
But the Government has stressed there will be no relaxation of the rules controlling gatherings of more than 5,000 people, boxing and wrestling, and things classed as sexual entertainment.
By Neil Gerrard
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