The licensing policy for London’s West End should make a clear distinction between venues that trade in the “evening” - until about midnight – and late-night drinking outlets, and give more flexibility around licence conditions to the former. That’s according to a new report from the West End Commission, a body set up by Westminster City Council, which calls for the Government to “modify” the late-night levy to ensure it targets “problem” premises. The Commission’s report highlights the “unique pressures” in the West End, which has levels of alcohol consumption and alcohol-related crime “much higher” than in any other part of London or the UK. “The diversity of this offer does not fit within the standard definition of the night-time economy, which usually classifies all economic activity that happens between 6pm and 6am within the same category. “Instead, the evidence received by the Commission suggests that there is an evening economy, characterised for example by restaurants, theatres, casinos, live music, etc. that is distinct from the night-time economy, characterised by bars, pubs and clubs that offer late night drinking. “The scale and complexity of this activity requires sophisticated licensing policies and strong local management of policing and enforcement.” It says there’s a “clear distinction” between the evening and night-time economies, with a cut-off point around midnight, although this is “difficult to define precisely”. “The evening economy provides more employment and less nuisance and the night-time economy the reverse,” the report adds. “The Commission recommends that this distinction is made clearer within the licensing policies that cover the West End so that greater flexibility in terms of licensing conditions can be applied to ‘evening’ activities. While this is already implicit in the use of ‘Core Hours’ in Westminster or ‘Framework Hours’ in Camden it should be made more explicit within the policy.” The report calls for “more sophisticated legislation” around the late-night levy so it would apply only to “licensees in a specific locality and/or for specific activities such as nightclubs where there was strong evidence of crime or anti-social behaviour”. The Commission recommends that the Home Office wokrs with the Association of Chief Police Officers and the Local Government Association to “redesign’ the levy so it can be applied “more accurately to ensure that those premises that cause the issue make the largest contribution”. It suggests four ways in which this could be achieved: - It can be applied across a Special Policy Area - Certain types of premises that are not alcohol-led can be exempted (eg: restaurants, jazz bars, casinos) - Base the levy on venue capacity and not just rateable value - Allow the council to decide conditions which, if included in the licence, would allow a premises to pay a reduced levy rate.