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Forget two in a bar - it's none in a bar!


Story: Paul Nelson

A TERRIFIC fight was put up against the new Licensing Act, with more than 110,000 people petitioning the government, but it is now here to stay, although there will be some interesting guidelines due this autumn from the Department of Culture, Media and Sport.

The pub with a big screen and jukeboxes won't need a Public Entertainments Licence, but those putting on live music almost certainly will.

Much is going to hinge on the question of local authority interpretation of the new laws, in particular the scope of the 'incidental' exception.

Most live music in bars and restaurants can be described as incidental to the main business but the actual wording of this exemption is not clear.

Once the new licences become available the MU and other interested parties will be monitoring local authority enforcement very carefully.

However … organisers can now put on 12 temporary events a year instead of the previous five.

Garden fetes and similar functions are exempt, provided that the proceeds are not for 'private gain'.

But an important benefit of the new legislation is that there will be a nationwide standard (and reduced) fee for a licence - local authorities will not be able to charge what they feel like as an easy source of revenue.

The main aim of the Campaign for Live Music and MU campaign was at least to protect the venues which had benefited from the two-in-a-bar rule (in fact to chuck it out and make it infinity-in-a-bar as obtains in many other European countries) in more than 100,000 venues.

Although it has been indicated by the Editor's MP and many others, that all the venues have to do is tick the 'I-want-a-music-licence' box on their overall licence application, they won't because of the crippling licensing conditions likely to be enforced by local authorities.

It was sad to note the unpleasant attitude and hugely discourteous language of the now departed DCMS's Kim Howells against any of the arguments put up on behalf of the musicians.

The Association of Police Officers was also pretty crazy, likening our audiences to gangsters, drug addicts and racists.

Once again, we all owe a bug debt of gratitude to our dear friend, Hamish Birchall, whose calmness, intelligence, courtesy and diligence were employed on our behalf, when faced with some of the most self-interested, ignorant and bigoted people in the country.

Shock and Awe

The Performing Rights Society has confirmed that the song 'Happy Birthday' is still in copyright.

Warner Communications paid $20 million for it. So even spontaneous public renditions of the tune in a pub are therefore licensable.

Unlicensed public performance of a copyright work is an offence so you have but two celebratory alternatives, pay up or shut up.

On the subject of spontaneous public performances, two pubs in Soho were fined £5,000 for allowing 11 people to 'sway rhythmically'.

Would the provision of a maypole on a village green become a criminal offence for the local authority, unless it is explicitly licensed as an 'entertainment facility' where people can sway rhythmically?

And if a local authority failed to licence its own entertainment facilities, would the local authority then be obliged to prosecute itself? The law is about to become even more of an ass.

(Both the above articles reprinted by permission of 'Hot News'.)

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