Hackney Council appears to be preparing to clamp down on the borough's vibrant nightlife scene. While acknowledging that bars, restaurants and clubs is the "second largest growth sector for employment in the borough after finance and insurance," proposals have been drawn-up to restrict new licensed premises.
The council is consulting on a change to licensing policy that would see new pubs and bars forced to close at 11pm during the week, and on midnight on weekends. Restaurants would be allowed to stay open an hour later.
But a group of residents has banded together to try to stop the proposals going ahead. Henry Dimbleby, co-founder of London Union (Street Feast, Dinerama and others) — and a resident of Hackney since 1998 — is among those behind the We Love Hackney campaign.
"We think this is happening because there's a vocal minority of residents in the borough who are very good at making their voices heard by the council," he tells Londonist. "We want to encourage the silent majority of people — those people who like the fact that this is a vibrant, creative borough, and that part of that comes from the night time economy — to come forward to voice their opinions, to object to these proposals."
The report [PDF] drawn up by licensing officers shows how much the nighttime economy has expanded in the borough, and just how much employment it accounts for: "Over the past decade, the numbers of restaurants, cafes, pubs and clubs that comprise Hackney’s food service and accommodation sectors have grown by 66% to over 700 businesses in 2012. As some of the fastest growing sectors in the borough, more than 5,000 jobs or 7% of Hackney’s employment, comes from the these businesses."
It's also important to point out these restrictions would only apply to new licence applications, so existing premises would be able to continue as they are. The council says it wants to manage the growth of the borough's vibrant nightlife, but also balance that with the needs of residents.