Anyone who's ever had a night out in Hackney – whichever side of the bar you were on that day – can tell you it's a party borough.
But now that the night tube is finally about to start running, potentially bringing more custom to a part of town that's slightly out of the centre, Hackney Council is proposing to put a halt to the growth of the borough's nightlife.
According to an early version of the council's Draft Statement of Licensing Policy obtained by Dalstonist, new applications for night clubs and dance venues are 'not considered appropriate'. In addition to that, pubs, bars, drinking and dining establishments, music and dance venues, and theatres and cinemas are expected to close at 11pm Sunday to Thursday, and midnight at weekends. The current version reaffirms that nighctlubs and dance venues are not considered appropriate in Dalston, neither are 'large capacity' or 'mainly outdoors' venues. It also proposes to expand Shoreditch's Special Policy Area, within which no new licenses will be granted 'unless there are exceptional circumstances'.
Local businesses have come together under the 'We love Hackney' campaign, and are urging Hackney residents to contact the council to let them know they disagree with the proposed changes.
They write: 'The night time economy supports the day time economy. Creative businesses have chosen to locate themselves in East London because our city’s best bars, clubs and places to eat are right on the doorstep. Whether it’s the best music, food or fashion – often it started life in Hackney. This has created new, exciting opportunities for young Londoners. If we shut down the night time economy, the day time economy suffers too.'
Street Feast's Jonathan Downey, Voodoo Ray's Dan Beaumont, Steve Ball of The Columbo Group (which runs The Nest, XOYO and The Cat & Mutton, among others) and Antic London's Charlie Beety are just a few that have given support to the campaign.
Rob Star is managing director of Electric Star (The Star of Bethnal Green and more), and is against the council's proposed changes. 'I've been in east London for the last 12 years,' Star told Imbibe. 'The proposals basically curtail what has been such an important part of the regeneration of the area. It would have great consequences for the future of not just this area but the whole of London. If they [the Council] can do it here, who says that they can’t do it in the rest of London, or even the rest of the country?'
He added that while the proposed changes would not affect pre-existing licenses such as his, he is concerned that they could become 'out of sync' with the rest of the borough, and might end up under threat themselves.
'I think people would still come to Hackney,' Star added. 'There’s so many [involved in the nightlife] who live in the area – DJs, promoters, etc – that I don’t think you’d see an immediate decline. But going forward people might then choose to live somewhere else, maybe somewhere more progressive.'
Meanwhile, Councillor Emma Plouviez, licensing chair at Hackney Council, justified the proposals by saying Dalston and Shoreditch are reaching 'saturation point' and losing the balance between the rights of businesses and residents. 'We believe this policy would be clearer and fairer for everyone, while maintaining the fantastic variety of nightlife in Hackney,' she wrote.
A consultation is in place until 14 August during which residents are invited to submit their views.
UPDATE 11/08: Hackney Council released a statement on 11 August announcing the consultation on licensing will be postponed until next year, after it discovered 'a minor error' in the consultation document. While Pouviez said this was unrelated to the nightlife aspect of the proposals, the Council has chosen to take the time to 're-consult on a new draft policy that [it hopes] both residents and businesses will be able to support'. There are also plans for a public debate on the borough's night time economy.
UPDATE 12/08: We Love Hackney is hosting a rally tonight at newly re-opened Dinerama, inviting backers of the campaign to come show their support. If interested, head to 19 Great Eastern St, London EC2A 3EJ between 6pm and 9pm.