This column isn't often political, because on the face of it, food, drink and going out aren't political. Or, at least, they aren't until they are.
The day before the time of writing, Hackney Council pushed through a new licensing policy, to be implemented across the length and breadth of the borough. This comes after a special consultation with residents. According to residents' group We Love Hackney, “75% of Hackney residents said they were opposed to the council's plans for a clamp down on the borough's night-time economy.”
It goes on to break down those figures further: 77% were against doubling the size of the Shoreditch Special Policy Area, where new licensed venues are effectively banned. 84% were against making new bars close at 11pm on weekdays and midnight at weekends, anywhere in the borough. 75% were against closing outside areas
at 10pm across the borough.
It's easy to forget that the borough of Hackney includes the neighbourhoods of, among others, Dalston, Stoke Newington, Haggerston, Clapton, Hackney Wick and – yes – Shoreditch. The move essentially tightens larger, richer companies' stranglehold on space, while taking away from the night-time economy – a massive contributor to jobs across the borough. It means new venues will have much earlier curfews – clubs closing at 11pm and night markets closing at 10pm.
It's hard to see why Hackney's councillors decided to push the policy through against seemingly overwhelming opposition. And it's also dispiriting to see elected officials seemingly acting on their own agendas and ignoring the will of residents. If there's to be a solution, though, it'll be in feeding back to councillors and making your feelings known. Because, as it stands, this affects more than just Hackney residents; it's a huge blow to anyone who loves going out in one of London's most eclectic, vibrant boroughs.