Red tape could kill live comedy

Outrage over government plans

Publicans are fighting planned new rules that could effectively kill off the live comedy circuit.

The Government is proposing a raft of regulations for all licensed premises – including a requirement that noise levels in bars, comedy clubs and even nightclubs should not exceed 70 decibels.

That level is equivalent to a hairdryer, or a busy office – and would effectively prohibit amplified sound. The sound system in a typical Jongleurs club, for example, can deliver 120 decibels of volume.

The proposal is buried in a proposed new mandatory code of practice, designed to stop binge drinking and antisocial behaviour. The Department of Health’s reasoning is that loud entertainment is linked to heavier drinking and increased violence.

Other planned rules mean that venues would have to place sensible drinking messages wherever alcohol was served – which means if a comedy club offered waitress service, each table would have to display such a notice – as well as restrictions on how cocktails are named.

The draft proposals from the Responsible Alcohol Sales Taskforce were leaked to the media last week, before they were officially put out to consultation, attracting headlines about the idea of banning free drinks for women and irresponsible ‘happy hour’ promotions. But there were much more detailed proposals in the document.

Its authors did concede that imposing a limit on the volume of entertainments ‘needs further work to define an acceptable level’, but in suggesting 70dB added that ‘a limit seems reasonable in light of the impact of live entertainment upon drinking patterns and propensity to violence and antisocial behaviour’.

The pub trade is up in arms about the proposals, which it considers a jumble of unnecessary and expensive red tape in a time when many cash-strapped bars are closing down.

Rob Hayward, chief executive of the British Beer & Pub Association is among those complaining about the ideas.

An open letter signed by him and other trade bodies today said: ‘If the Government's proposed new mandatory code of practice limited itself to banning free drinks for women and other irresponsible promotions, it would have our full support. We are not opposed to the sensible targeting of problem drinkers and venues.

‘In the battle against binge drinking, is it really necessary for every restaurant table and hotel room to have a detailed sensible drinking sign? Must we restrict every music, dancing and comedy event to no more than 70 decibels – the sound level of a hairdryer?’

‘The level of form-filling, box-ticking, record-keeping, enforcement and cost associated with the full proposals is considerable.

‘Plenty of laws already exist to tackle irresponsible drinkers and venues. As the Government are not enforcing those, we are duly sceptical that even more Government micromanagement would prove any more effective.’

Nick Bish, the chief executive of the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers, added: ‘To say that these latest proposals are ridiculous is an understatement.

‘Yet again, the Government is wasting time and effort on yet more pointless proposals which treat the British public like idiots and do nothing to help Britain’s great pub industry, which people know, love and value. There are real actions that the Government could take right now to help the industry, but all it can do is come up with pie-in-the-sky proposals based on wish-list sessions in ivory towers in Westminster.’

Published: 15 Oct 2008

We see you are using AdBlocker software. Chortle relies on advertisers to fund this website so it’s free for you, so we would ask that you disable it for this site. Our ads are non-intrusive and relevant. Help keep Chortle viable.