The Soho Society’s Licensing Group aims to ensure that the society continues to be guided by the objective of making Soho a better place to live, work and visit. Since the last AGM the Licensing Committee has continued to monitor every licensing application within Soho as per our Licensing Mandate. Careful management of licensing in this neighbourhood helps in the prevention of crime, disorder and nuisance, as well as helping to maintain public safety. Applications for alcohol sales, late-night premises, etc, within Soho are monitored, and we will object to any that cannot demonstrate they will not add to cumulative impact in this area.
Over this last year we have examined 161 licensing applications relevant to Soho, of which 47 were new applications, either for completely new premises opening up or for established premises seeking to add the sale of alcohol or late night refreshment to their current license specifications. The others were for variations to current licenses, seeking to extend opening hours, alcohol or food sales, or generally change license conditions, or premises layouts, amongst others. 31 license applications have received written objections from the Society’s Licensing Group, which were considered by Westminster Council when deciding on the licence and often led to conditions being applied to the applications resulting in a suitable compromise for both residents and applicants. Final decisions on the granting of licenses rest with Westminster Council, whose policy is reflected in the Soho Society’s Licensing Mandate.
We try, wherever possible, and in accordance with our mandate, to assist and support residents in their objections to licensing applications. Over the last few years we have monitored the proliferation of Betting Shops in and around Soho – particularly around Chinatown, which, we have discovered, has the largest cluster of betting shops in the UK – and, where possible, objected to new betting shop premises and applications to extend their hours of operation. The Gambling Act 2005 makes it difficult to oppose these, but their detrimental social impact is widely recognised and there is increasingly more negative media coverage of betting shops and their operations, leading to calls for more effective regulation.
In terms of licensed premises, we live in one of the most – possibly the most - densely-saturated neighbourhoods in the entire country. Balancing the needs of the flourishing commercial sector with the rights of residents for a quiet life may seem an impossible task, but Soho proves it is very definitely NOT impossible, and the two can exist in harmony. Most Soho residents enjoy living here because the neighbourhood is how it is – vibrant, busy and constantly stimulating. The key to these opposing residential and commercial interests working harmoniously together is negotiation and this is what enables Soho’s unique character. Long may it continue.
We acknowledge invaluable help, advice and support from Richard Brown of Westminster CAB.