Policing the night-time economy: killing the lads’ night out?

Saturday 18 October, 16.00 until 17.15, Frobisher 1-3, Barbican Defending Everyday Liberties

The night-time economy has been one of Britain’s few recession-proof industries. Yet it has increasingly become an area for legislation and regulation by government and local authorities. A senior police office, Chief Constable Adrian Lee, grabbed headlines last year for suggesting that privately-run ‘drunk tanks’ should be used to free up police resources strained by liberalised drinking laws, but licencees counter that they have been unduly penalised by a raft of regulations brought in over the same period.

Licensed premises are increasingly forced to have identity scanners and several registered door personnel, while in some areas blanket restrictions on activity beyond 1am have been implemented. In London, a late night levy has been imposed in Islington, while in Soho, Lambeth and Tower Hamlets a variety of other restrictive measures have been introduced. Combined with increasing pressure to enforce zero-tolerance policies on illegal substances and sexual harassment, some commentators have drawn comparisons to the heavy-handed policing brought about by the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994, which was widely blamed for killing off the UK’s popular rave scene.

Local authorities argue that ‘saturation zones’ and ‘cumulative impact zones’ - which heavily regulate the opening of new bars in popular areas – were a response to local residents’ concerns over alcohol-related crime, and point towards the fall in violent crime and anti-social behaviour as proof they have the balance right. But others argue that such falls in violent disorder are part of a broader, long-running trend, and that the high crime levels associated with night-life are misleading (many relate to mobile phone theft, for example). As one bar owner in Shoreditch pointed out: ‘This place was a bit of a no-go zone really… clubs, bars and artists brought life to it and resuscitated it – now we are penalised for the very same activity.’

What are the reasons for the new approach to late-night activity? Does Britain face a crisis of anti-social behavior in bars and clubs? Should there be further legislation? How closely is binge drinking associated with late-opening pubs and clubs? Is the night-time economy a positive industry and part of Britain’s success story? Or does it represent a crime-ridden, out-of-control society?

Listen to the debate:


Harvey Goldsmith
impresario; chairman, The British Music Experience

Alan Miller
chairman, Night Time Industries Association (NTIA)

Tim Mitchell
Chairman of licensing, Westminster City Council

Alex Proud
CEO, Proud Group

Marion Roberts
professor of urban design, University of Westminster; co-author, Planning the Night-time City

David Bowden
associate fellow, Academy of Ideas; culture writer

Produced by
David Bowden associate fellow, Academy of Ideas; culture writer
Alan Miller chairman, Night Time Industries Association (NTIA)
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