No last orders in Westminster pubs during Olympics?

The council may allow drinking establishments to extend drinking hours through the night during London 2012

Pubs and bars in Westminster could be allowed to stay open through the night during the 2012 Olympics with Westminster Council considering extended licences.

The council is currently discussing plans for the event next year with one possibility including letting pubs, clubs and restaurants stay open later to cater for the millions of tourists expected to come to the area.

In a document outlining Westminster’s plans and preparations for the Olympics the council says: “Officers have been discussing how best to plan and prioritise the activities of the city council’s own regulatory services, such as environmental health, planning and licensing enforcement, during 2012.

“We are developing proposals…to extend the provision of services into the evenings and weekends and some enforcement activities will be running 24 hours day.”

A council meeting last week saw Cllr Louise Hyams ask how residents affected by licensing changes during the Olympics will be accommodated.

Cllr Brian Connell, cabinet member for business, enterprise and skills, responded: “Any changes we make to our licences would of course see residents fully consulted.

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“But at the moment there are no applications for 24-hour licences and I don’t think we are going to see a huge wave of significant changes.”

Westminster is expecting to host a number of Olympic events including archery at Lord’s Cricket Ground, triathlon and open water swimming in Hyde Park and part of the cycling road race in Regent’s Park.

Westminster Licensees Association secretary Kate Nicholls confirmed they are working with the council to help discuss what their members would be looking for.

“It’s about meeting the expectation of visitors who will want to go to a place and get a meal and a drink after the events have finished,” she said. “Our members are very keen to showcase the very best of what London has to offer.

“They want to make sure they play their part in delivering the best Olympics they can.

“We are also talking to the national government because they have the power to set the licensing hours for a larger area for a specific event, like they are doing for the Royal Wedding, which would ease pressure on Westminster’s licensing authority.”

Marylebone Association former chairman, Carl Upsall, said: “You can understand that there will be bars that gear themselves up as sports bars and want to have their licences extended for that period.

“It would seem somewhat churlish to object unless they were in built up areas disrupting residents. There has got to be some tolerance.”

But Malcolm Kafetz, Friends of Regent’s Park and Primrose Hill chairman, warns that licensing controls are vital to stop disruptive behaviour.

“It’s very difficult,” he said. “The only way we can control what goes on in the parks is through the licensing and planning departments.

“I think it’s very unwise to extend licensing hours because they are not running the Olympics at night so what’s point of it?”

Cllr Connell said: “We’ve had some informal discussions with licensed premises over their plans during the Olympics but at this stage do not foresee a significant change in hours or indeed the granting of 24-hour licences.

“No applications have yet been received.”