Nightlife Article #9 : The Unfair Burden on Venue Licensees: Shifting Accountability in the UK

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Operating a licensed venue in the UK presents a formidable challenge, laden with responsibilities and risks. The safety and welfare of patrons remain the utmost concern for venue operators. However, there appears to be an unjust weight placed on them when incidents unfold within their premises. In this blog post, we will delve into the obstacles confronting venue licensees in terms of responsibility and risk, and question the fairness and effectiveness of the prevailing approach adopted by authorities.

Among the most pressing issues that weigh on venue licensees in the UK is the disproportional responsibility they shoulder when incidents transpire on their property. Whether it involves a brawl, drug-related incident, or any illicit activity, the licensed venue operator often finds themselves in the crosshairs. Authorities, encompassing the police and licensing bodies, tend to assign blame or squarely focus on the venue operator, even when the incident results from individual choices and actions.

This raises a fundamental question: why is the primary accountability not directed at the individuals committing these acts? In many instances, the essence of personal responsibility appears to be obscured, as venue operators are held accountable for events beyond their control.

The ramifications of this skewed accountability are severe for venue operators. Some have even faced the revocation of their licenses, leading to the closure of their businesses. This exerts a profound impact not only on the enterprises but also on the employees who rely on these establishments for their livelihoods.

It’s worth noting that while venue licensees grapple with severe consequences for incidents transpiring on their premises, other businesses subject to the same regulatory constraints do not face a commensurate level of threat when similar incidents occur within their establishments. This incongruity in treatment raises legitimate concerns regarding the equitable and consistent application of licensing laws.

The current approach taken by the police and licensing authorities, which frequently entails shuttering venues after a significant incident, prompts questions about its efficacy. While it may serve as an immediate response to address pressing concerns, it does little to tackle the root causes of such incidents.

Temporarily closing a licensed establishment might remove a perceived problem, but it falls short in holding individuals accountable for their actions. Moreover, it does not address the underlying societal issues that may contribute to these incidents, such as substance abuse or youth violence.

The time has come to reconsider the approach taken by authorities when handling incidents at licensed venues. Rather than heaping the entire burden on venue operators, a more equitable approach should be adopted, one that places responsibility squarely on the individuals involved. This could entail stricter enforcement against those engaged in criminal activities on the premises, coupled with community-based initiatives aimed at addressing the underlying issues.

The challenges encountered by venue licensees in the UK when incidents occur within their premises are substantial and carry far-reaching consequences. The current strategy of transferring responsibility and risk entirely onto the shoulders of venue operators is not only unjust but also ineffective in addressing the root causes of these incidents.

To establish a system that is fair and balanced, it is imperative for authorities to shift their focus toward holding individuals accountable for their actions and to contemplate a more uniform approach to licensing regulations. Only then can we ensure that the burden of responsibility is distributed equitably and that licensed venues are not unfairly penalised for the actions of a few.

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