Docs’ boozing bid is hard to swallow

TIME has been called on top doctors plans for drinking into the early hours of the morning, seven days a week

Marc Mullen

TIME has been called on top doctors' plans for drinking into the early hours of the morning, seven days a week.

The British Medical Association, which looks after the "professional and personal needs" of 139,000 doctors and medical students in the UK, applied to Camden Council for a licence to sell booze to members at its Tavistock Place headquarters until 1am every night of the week.

But at a meeting at the Town Hall last Tuesday, councillors voted to give the association just a half hour licence extension so that it can only serve alcohol until 11.30pm.

Booze will only be able to be served later at special functions when members can rent the premises to up to 600 guests, up to 12 times a year.

Councillor Don Williams, chairman of the licensing panel, said: "We are happy that we have come to a compromise and that there will now be more controls over what happens at the BMA, but they will still be able to carry out their necessary activities.

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"Neighbours said it was very close to their homes and they could hear music and people drinking and chatting into the early hours.

"In the end I think we came to a good solution to protect the interests of the neighbours particularly in Burton Street.

"No one will be able to go in the back entrance after 8pm."

The booze licence, which allows alcohol to be served from 9am, covers the whole building - made up of five members' rooms, six committee rooms, the council room, the café, the members' dining room, the staff canteen and the staff restroom.

The organisation also wanted a licence to pull pints from 9am on New Year's Eve until 1am on January 2.

In a paper published last June on alcohol misuse, the association wrote: "Any extension to licensing hours requires a programme of post change research to look at acute and longer term health consequences."

The council received a deluge of complaints from neighbours who claimed the association was taking a hypocritical oath. Lillian Ruff from Burton Street wrote: "People do not use bars until 1am to drink tomato juice. Drinking alcohol leads to louder talking and laughter and it will probably lead to cars being driven by people over the alcohol limit.

"At 1am each night there will be nobody at the exit to check whether they are safe for driving."

Vincent Murray wrote: "We see no good reason why the BMA's alcohol licence should be increased, unless it is to enable and encourage their visitors to drink into the early hours of the morning, which is surprising given that they are a medical organisation and so should be aware of the health risks involved."

A BMA spokesman said: "We have not made a request for a bar to open beyond 11.30pm, and the BMA remains committed to encouraging safe and sensible drinking.

"We are also committed to respecting the concerns of our neighbours and tenants, and during the recent hearing the BMA offered a number of assurances which the licensing panel accepted."