It comes with the territory, some say, as the owner or manager of a licensed premises that you will, from time-to-time, have to deal with complaints made by people other than your customers.
In my experience, the majority of complaints made about most types of licensed premises concern noise nuisance. It is often not straightforward for premises such as bars, clubs and nightclubs to operate alongside others with different times and methods of operation. When situated alongside buildings such as residential dwellings, offices or places of worship, licensed premises are often met with complaints due to noise being suffered by neighbours.
The Licensing Act 2003 and accompanying guidance sets out four objectives, with the Prevention of Public Nuisance being one. The Act enables local authorities and responsible authorities to consider what constitutes public nuisance and what is appropriate to prevent it. Typically, if a licensing committee is convinced that a nuisance can be prevented by the imposition of conditions attached to specific premises licences.
What is a public nuisance?
This then begs the question of precisely what constitutes a public nuisance. Various pieces of legislation set out the statutory meaning. However, in the context of licensing the definition is broad. It may include the reduction of the living and working amenity and environment of other persons living and working in the area of the licensed premises.
What action will a Local Authority take?
Authorities will usually seek to give balance to the views of the author, and the subject of a complaint. However, where complaints are repeatedly received about certain premises, local authorities are sometimes called to take action. Any actions (and the conditions or remedy sought) should be appropriate to promote the prevention of public nuisance. Further, they should be tailored to the type, nature and characteristics of the premises in question and the activities being carried out there. While aiming to ensure that neighbours are not suffering nuisance, government guidance states that authorities should avoid inappropriate or disproportionate measures that could deter events that are valuable to the community, such as live music.
Nuisance cases are by no means limited to licensing and are not limited to noise nuisance. Such matters can involve many things and in certain circumstances can be resolved by way of litigation also, but this will incur costs.
Operators, neighbours and local authorities should, where possible, seek to engage with each other in finding a way to overcome problems. Doing so can prevent the incursion of legal fees and hours being ploughed into resolving matters. However if you would like to speak to a solicitor, be it at an early stage or otherwise, you can contact our licensing department on 0113 244 9931.