Tories pledge focus on pubs and clubs in 'first 100 days'

People in a bar toasting each other with pints of beer
[Getty Images]

A review of licensing laws and planning rules aimed at boosting pubs, restaurants and music venues would be launched in the first 100 days of a new Conservative government, the party has promised.

Ministers would look at ways to "crack down" on councils setting "disproportionate conditions and restrictions on licences" in a bid to cut red tape for businesses in the sector, the Conservatives said.

Labour said it was "time to call last orders on the Tories".

Hospitality was hit hard by the Covid pandemic as venues were forced to shut and the sector's recovery has been hampered by rising running costs, resulting in the closure of hundreds of pubs and clubs.

'Lack of detail'

Earlier this year, Pryzm and Atik nightclubs owner Rekom announced the closure of 17 venues with the loss of 500 jobs, with bosses saying students were cutting back on midweek nights out because of cost-of-living pressures.

About 400 nightclubs shut down permanently between March 2020 and December 2023, according to the Night Time Industries Association (NTIA).

A review of England's night-time economy had been promised in the Conservative manifesto, but the party has now said it would begin within the first 100 days if it wins the general election.

The Tories said they would cut what they described as red tape "unnecessarily holding back growth and adding operating costs for businesses", and consider creating a ministerial position for the sector.

They would "protect" music venues, they added, by strengthening the enforcement of the "agent of change" planning principle, which requires developers who build near an existing venue to pay for their own sound proofing.

Michael Kill, chief executive of the Night Time Industries Association (NTIA), said the body had seen a "considerable amount of broad brush commitments" in manifestos from all political parties, and was "frustrated by the lack of detail and substance".

He said it was "encouraging to see that the Conservatives have listened to our recent call for more detail", but warned the night-time industry, which employs more than two million people, "needs these commitments and more".

“Without doubt we need the new government to re-evaluate our licensing and planning systems, removing red tape and unnecessary regulatory burdens, and moving towards a system that is proportionate, fair, and consistent," he added.

Conservative small business minister Kevin Hollinrake said his party had "always supported our night-time economy, with business rates reliefs, economic support during the pandemic".

“We’ll continue to back our night-time economy - Labour would cripple it further with higher taxes and more burdensome regulation."

But Labour said the prime minister "simply has no answers to the problems facing the country".

“After 14 years in power, Rishi Sunak’s offer to voters is ‘a review’," a spokesperson said.

“On the Tories’ watch, 'night fever' is dead. Nightclubs, venues and music festivals have shut in their droves, and thousands of pub landlords have pulled their last pint."

A spokesperson for the Liberal Democrats said the pledge was an "empty promise".

"The sheer number of closed shops, pubs and restaurants in high streets across the UK is a testament to the Conservatives' utter failure to support Britain's local economies," they added.