Entertainment Licensing Laws

General Problem

The current law regarding the licensing of small pubs in relation to the presentation of live entertainment with more than two performers appears unreasonable, poorly thought out, and unfairly discriminatory towards small time working bands and already hard pressed Landlords. It also does not appear to be in the best interests of the public, whom such laws are supposed to serve and safeguard. It is not perhaps the need for licensing at times that is questionable, but the criteria by which the need is currently judged.

The Current Law

The current law allows small pubs to present discos or live duos without the need for an entertainment's license but not a band. Where a duo can tread without contravening the law, a trio cannot. Live bands with more than two performers are not permitted unless the venue holds an entertainment's license. To obtain a license a venue must become subject to strict regulations involving fireproofing of furniture and upholstery as well as the installation of clearly labelled outwardly opening fire exits. As most small pubs have doors that open inwardly this operation can prove to be expensive. The venue must also pay for the cost of a license. This law currently inhibits many small pubs from presenting live bands, even though they would like to. The same peculiar law outlaws karaoke evenings if there are more than two people singing at any one time and also means that the traditional pub sing-a-long is illegal if more than one person is singing along with the pianist at any one time. Some local authorities have included karaoke under the licensing laws because over the course of an evening more than two people will be performing, even though the performers are unpaid. Contravening the licensing law can make one liable to a fine of up to twenty thousand pounds.

Problems With The Current Law

The end result of the current law is a shortage of work for the small time musician, a shortage of customers for the small time venue and a shortage of local entertainment for the public. The current law also inhibits the growth in entertainment by denying opportunity to up and coming bands. The current law has without doubt contributed to individuals going under in the present economic climate. As there is already a shortage of work, one has to be sure that jobs are not displaced unnecessarily and without sufficient justification. Also, where so many people are losing out, one has to be sure that the law is just. This does not currently appear to be the case here and as it can be demonstrated that regulations and criteria are currently unjust, it would be of great benefit to a great number of people to scrap the licensing of entertainment at this level all together.

What Is Unfair With The Current Criteria?

It appears unreasonable that small pubs wishing to present bands should be asked to comply with tougher criteria than if presenting discos, duos or other forms of live entertainment. As discos can attract as many people as live bands and can also attract trouble-making elements, one cannot argue that there is any more likelihood of problems arising on a live band night than on a disco night. As discos can also create as much noise and significantly more in some cases, one cannot argue that live bands present any greater degree of noise pollution. Sound pressure level is dependent upon the level of amplification and not necessarily the number of performers. A solo performer or duo, with the aid of current technology, can present as full a sound as any large band. This presentation can include taped or sequenced recordings with sampled drum sounds, percussion, keyboards, orchestras, choirs and special effects such as thunder and explosions. The sound can then be amplified to any required level. With the current criteria, this is allowable and all within the law, but three old gentlemen playing in an acoustic jazz trio, or four young ladies playing in a string quartet, un-amplified, at the same venue, would be breaking the law. With regard to the generation of noise pollution, it is clear that discos and amplified duos are quite capable of generating high sound pressure levels. Therefore, one can only use common sense to ensure that noise does not become a problem with local residents as has always been the case for venues, licensed or not.

Traditional Pub Sing-Along Illegal

It appears unreasonable that in an unlicensed venue karaoke is technically illegal if more than two people are singing, making it against the law to impersonate acts such as The Supremes or The Four Tops unless the venue is licensed. It is also unreasonable that karaoke is technically regarded as illegal because (over the course of an evening) more than two people will have taken part in the entertainment, even though they are not getting paid as professional performers and would not all be performing together at any one time. By the same standards the traditional pub sing-a-long is technically illegal if more than two people are singing, or more than two different people sing on the same night, and this is not including the pianist. Karaoke evenings have been banned in venues that do not hold an entertainment's license for the above reasons. It appears ridiculous to consider that karaoke is illegal if more than two people are singing. It is also ridiculous that the traditional pub sing-along is illegal if more than two people are singing.

Let Size Dictate

When all the above points are considered, is it then reasonable that small pubs wishing to present live bands or karaoke should have to abide by regulations that are any different from pubs offering duos or discos? There is after all a natural barrier which prevents larger shows from taking place at small venues and that is simply the size of the venue.

Suggestions For More Sensible Criteria

As it is currently hard to demonstrate that regulations and criteria are just, it would benefit a great many people to scrap the licensing of entertainment at small venues all together. It would appear more suitable to judge the need for licensing on the potential capacity of a venue, or as to whether a venue charges admission fees. The need for licensing could therefore be reserved for bigger professional venues where there is a greater need to consider crowd control and associated problems.

Dealing With Complaints

Any complaints from local residents regarding noise pollution arising from the presentation of live entertainment at venues can be dealt with in the normal fashion reaching a compromise engineered to keep everybody happy. Control of the situation is maintained in the usual manner by the local authority.

Points In Favour Of Scrapping The Law For Small Venues
  • People like to see small time pub bands performing at local pubs.

  • Small time musicians rely on work at local pubs especially in the current economic climate.

  • Young up and coming bands rely on local gigs to get their experience and this too should be encouraged.

  • Local people, who are not that well off, rely on local gigs to be able to afford to see a live band.

  • Landlords and Landladies also like to offer small time live bands at their pubs if it proves to be an attraction to local people, bearing in mind that some pubs are not viable unless they can offer live music.

  • Building a success in these areas is good for the economy and ultimately brings in more tax revenue.

  • This move would be favourable with the majority of people of all ages.

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