Update: Brixton Hootananny license restriction ‘devastating’

Hootananny pub, Effra Road, is no longer allowed to let customers in after 11pm. Picture from Google Streetview

The owners of an award-winning Brixton venue fear the pub will close unless Lambeth council lifts licensing restrictions placed on it.

Police wrote to Hootananny, in Effra Road, last week, informing them that they were breaching their licence by allowing customers to enter after 11pm. The bar was told it could continue to stay open until 3am, but last entry had to be 11pm, not 2am as previously.

Hootananny co-owner Sophia Yates said confusion had arisen after they had taken over the licence from the former Hobgoblin pub at the site. Since the days of the Hobgoblin the owners have turned the building into a successful late-night live music venue.

She told the Blog: “This restriction is devastating news as without the support from our community and beloved customers it could effectively mean  the end of our award-winning business.

“Until we are able to change our licence, we are worried that we won’t be able to keep afloat and the more people we can get in through our doors before 11pm the better!”

The pub is applying for a licence review to change the hours, but fears the restriction could spell the end of the popular nightspot. A review could take up to two months to complete.

Ms Yates said that having to close down Hootananny would be their “worst nightmare”.

She added: “We turned away over 700 people this weekend, obviously that was traumatic. We lost half our trade which plunged us into loss, of course our weekly overheads as you can imagine are very high, so we are being forced into bringing the entrance charge of £3 charge forward to 9pm just to survive financially and we hope that our customers will be supportive of this change.”

Cllr Jack Hopkins, cabinet member for public protection, said: “We are working with Hootananny’s management to resolve an increase in complaints to the council and police about the venue. All we are asking is that the venue complies with their existing license.

“We expect this venue and all others in the borough to be run responsibly and in total compliance with their licences so that disturbance to residents is minimised. We welcome well run businesses that show respect for their neighbourhood and work with residents and the authorities in dealing swiftly with any problems that may arise.”

More than 900 people have now signed an online petition entitled “Save Hootananny Brixton.”

Among those to sign was bar staff member Francesca Ronai Agoro. She said: “I was a regular for five years and now I’m a member of staff.

“This pub is my life. Restricting entry after 11pm will put me out of a job and take away one of Brixton’s best establishments.”

Another, Robin Yates, said: “Late-night Hoots has become a way of life – and a living – for tens of people, a performing and entertainment magnet for thousands (winning London and UK awards), and a vital social and economic force for the good of Brixton, Tulse Hill and Herne Hill.”






  1. No one has the right to make noise that can be heard in other dwellings apart from “normal” domestic noise and traffic (loud car stereos are a Police matter). Just because a venue got away with it for a few years doesn’t mean they should continue to get away with it. If they want to have loud music then they have a duty to put in sound barriers and vestibules so that noise doesn’t escape. They also have a duty to ensure that their customers are quiet when outside and when exiting and entering. Meet these criteria while also protecting teh health of staff (eg ear plugs and auto-cut-out sound monitors) and you have no problems and the council don’t get involved. The neighbours are happy and the business can continue. Fail to do these and of course they should shut down. It isn’t a question of locationm, lets face it people in London don’t really get the greatest amount of choice in location, especially in terms of private and council rented accomodation.

    I used to live near a trully awful venue in south Vauxhall. The music was so loud that when I first heard it I thought my flatmates had turned a stereo up full blast. I tried to be neighbourly and asked the manager to turn it down and keep the door closed and I got chased down the street. I had Lambeth council involved for the rest of the time I lived there and yes they had to put in equipent, a vestebule and so on. They flouted the rules by letting DJs plug into other sockets than the cut-out ones and so had to get the council involved even more. Why should any resident accept noise that would prevent them having good rest in their own home?

  2. I dont think anyone wants the pub to close but the noise issue needs to be dealt with. I note that “Josephine Avenue” states bass noise is a particular problem.

    Personally ,as someone who lives in central Brixton, I can deal with a lot of things. But bass noise goes right through a building. You cannot get away from it. It is something that Lambeth Noise section will not deal with. I do not know why.

    Also the difference between a pub and club has become blurred.

    I welcome new venues like the Craft Beer Company near the Rec. That is a place which is responsibly run and will cause problems.

    Its not entertainment venues per se that are the problem. Or late licensing.

      • I agree. What people need to consider is that our existing long standing venues are actually being put under threat by the owners / managers in many cases. They don’t behave as part of a community or recognise the rights of local people to live (relatively) peacefully. They expand their offerings as if they were in a vacuum. The council is ill prepared or unwilling to deal with minor nuisances from louder sound systems without sound proofing / later hours etc.. which could be easily resolved. Owners see this as a green card to be even bigger, louder and later (particularly with outside areas) and allow them to develop into major nuisances at which point the existence of the venue is threatened.

  3. I would like to echo fellow Josephine Avenue resident’s comments (Josephine Avenue 2 that is) This site has been a live music/late night venue for many many years and is part of what makes Brixton the fun and vibrant place it is. People have always used Josephine Avenue to cut through from Brixton Hill to Tulse Hill and yes some of them do make some noise and I believe some of the young people may drink too much but in all honesty if you want to live somewhere that people are quietly tucked up in bed when it gets dark Brixton ain’t for you. It will be a crying shame when we loose all the great venues of Brixton to tescos, sainsburys, starbucks and so one. I agree that Hootanany should abide by it’s license and needs to work hard at being a better neighbour, but I for one will miss it if it goes and no I don’t think we need another little supermarket.

    • I have lived here for over 25 years and it is just plain wrong to say that the venue (Hootenanny, Hobgoblin or George Canning) has always been a late night venue. When I moved here it was a pub with a stage and little bother to local residents. If people wanted a night club they went into town.
      Late night licenses should be granted to venues in appropriate locations, not because they are popular and profitable.

  4. I live in Josephine Avenue about 60 meters from the front of the Hootananny. I’ve lived here for over 12 years. Personally, I have no problem with the Hootananny. It has been a lively music venue for many years and I think it is a great addition to the vibrant Brixton environment. I hope that they are successful in achieving a licensing arrangement that allows them to run a viable business whilst also meeting the reasonable requirements of local residents. I would much rather it remains a live music pub than closing down and being turned into yet another Tesco Express.

  5. In this month’s Lambeth Weekender the owner of the Hootenanny, Ms Yates, is quoted as saying.

    “What night club cannot take people in after 11pm when closing at 3am?”

    She is meant to be running a pub, but she wants to run a night club, and that is where the problems lie.

  6. The Hootananny is an anti-social nuisance whose primary concern is its profits. They have had years to demonstrate that they have any consideration for the residents who live near the premises, and they have failed badly. I obtained under FOI a list of the complaints made against them for noise – it is a long list. My own experience with them is abysmal – regularly kept awake until the small wee hours by the thumping bass. My polite complaints to the pub manager were trivialized and treated with contempt until I got the Lambeth Noise Team on the case.
    They were caught bang to rights breaking the (very generous) terms of their license, and their first response was to go crying to the media and online looking for people to sign a petition to support them. I am delighted that Lambeth Council have finally realized where their duties lie – ie, with the residents and tax-payers of the borough who are sick to death of drunken louts and noisy pubs.

    • Well done on your persistence. It’s no mean feat getting Lambeth Licensing and Noise Control to act on matters like this. In recent years they have treated residents as a nuisance to be ignored wherever possible. Your long list of complaints released under FOI are testimony to this. I truly hope that councillors are able to effect a real cultural change in those departments but I am still not convinced that they are committed to doing so. And before anyone starts blaming cuts – it was like this long before 2008. A genuine cultural change is needed in those departments.

  7. The Hootenanny is in a residential area and not a suitable venue for late night entertainment. The owners knew this when they moved here and it is a wonder they have got away with it for so long.

    The council should be encouraging regeneration in Brixton town centre and not allowing residential areas to suffer the disruption caused by landlords after cheaper rent and easy parking for their customers.

    Lambeth council closed down South Beach on Brixton Hill for breach of license, Hootenanny should have taken note.

    It should also be noted that Antic, a group who already own several pubs in South London including Brixton’s Dogstar and the Balham Bowling Club, will be converting the old Conservative Club, two doors down from the Hootenanny, into a ‘Gastro’. This is crazy when you bear in mind there are/were well established music venue and pubs with no residential neighbours, such as the Railway Hotel in Brixton and the George the Fourth on Brixton Hill, which are now lying empty or given planning permission to be a Tescos local. Is this town planning or just knee jerk reactions from an ineffective Town Hall?

    • Hmm. What about the large number of residents in Brixton Town Centre? Having lived in the town centre for 15 years I have noticed a significant recent increase in music noise and late night street activity. The solution is to make all venues clubs clubs and bars act responsibly towards residents, wherever they are. Venues like the Hoot (in its various incarnations) have been here longer than you and me. They have just been allowed to push the boundaries of what is acceptable disturbance completely unchecked. If most venues were forced to keep to their existing licence and planning conditions most of these problems would be solved. I certainly don’t want to see the Hoot gone. Just held to account and very strongly encouraged to act more responsibly towards their local community. Solutions which just push the problem around are short sighted.

      • I think it fair to say that people choosing to live in any town centre should expect a bit more noise than those living in surrounding residential streets. That balance has been upset in Brixton and Lambeth need to get a grip on the situation.

      • Yes, one would expect more going on in the town centre – and there is. The same could be said of anyone choosing to live on a road directly interlinking several late night venues: White Horse, the now departed South Beach, Hob, Mango. Apart from South Beach they have all been around as late venues for a long time in various guises. Like I said, the problem, whether in the centre or not, is with existing controls not being applied properly – either because of incompetence or impropriety. It is something that all residents experiencing problems should tackle together. Your issue is not unique and pretending that Josephine venue is some sort of scared oasis which should be uniquely immune from inner city shenanigans is not an argument that will further anyone’s cause.

      • But your history is wrong. I moved to Josephine Avenue 25 years ago and then the pubs you mention did NOT have regular late night licenses.

      • To be honest, 25 years ago is kind of irrelevant. I was having late nights in the Hob 15 years ago – so it is hardly a new thing. The issue is not the late licenses per se. It is the council’s reluctance to encourage owners to operate venues responsibly and within their licence conditions since labour’s “cafe culture” legislation moved responsibilities away from magistrates in 2005. The council is not experienced or motivated enough for the responsibility. It looks like the police are starting to take the lead in dealing with rogue venues which is positive.

        The important thing is for residents to act together to force the council to protect their interests – rather than just being territorial on a street by street basis.The Hoot is not a unique problem, although I agree it is perhaps one of the more extreme ones.

      • I can only talk about where I live and not trying to single our Josephine Avenue as an exception. As you say it is the enforcement of existing late licences which is needed. But with diminishing police resources this is becoming more difficult. Perhaps if late night venues were restricted to traditional entertainment areas, e.g. town centres, then this could realistically be enforced.

      • That’s a fairly selfish “I’m alright jack” view and one that can only serve to split the community. Not really what the community here has historically been about, in my experience. But I wish you the best of luck with your personal campaign in any case.

        Personally, I enjoy the Hoot, the White Horse and Mango. I trust the Hoot will fall in line with its licence requirements so that I can continue to enjoy them all.

      • Yes – all is clear. I would like people, particularly locals like myself, to be able to enjoy responsibly managed local venues in a sensible manner diligently controlled by licensing and planning regulation administered by a council and police which are answerable to the local community. You think they should be got rid of altogether because they are no longer required for your own lifestyle needs. Genius.

      • I live in town centre. I agree with Rushy. Its not a matter of where u live. Its a matter of the planning and licensing conditions being kept to in all areas. I cannot believe that Hoot did not know about the 11 pm condition.

        The so called Town Centre is also a residential area. And has always been so. It has a high population as the housing is flat. This is forgotten.

        Also many retail shops have managed to get change of use to A3 / A4 (bars). So u might move to live in Brixton above retail shop and then find its a bar. That is not your fault.

        If the Brixton town centre is to remain and area of shops, bars and a residential community then it must be protected.

        I object to the assumption that its ones own fault for living in central Brixton.

  8. Hootenanny is great fun but I have to admit that on countless occasions when I’ve been enjoying the garden at 2am with music pumping out and punters being incredible noisy I have often wondered how on earth they get away with it. It appears that it is just because they have been ignoring locals and Lambeth Licensing were not holding them to their licence conditions. I don’t have a lot of sympathy for the argument that they will close if they are forced to abide by those long standing conditions. It is hard to believe that anyone involved in setting up a venue would have been so naive as to forget to check whether their licence actually allows them to trade in the way that their business plan requires in order to be profitable. They could have applied for a variation at any point but decided to just operate outside the conditions instead. That’s both foolish as well as disrespectful toward the immediate local community. I’m sure some sort of compromise can be reached but the Hoot really needs to take responsibility for its current predicament rather than playing the victim card.

  9. Hootananny people have forgotten that we are a residential area here &not a centre town clubbing club pub.

    I am affected sometimes cause it’s so noisy that you can hear the bass drum travelling into my room
    &also clubbing people very often go through Josephine Avenue having fun by screaming loud, doing there business in our gardens and so on.

    They will find other ways to get there mobney by changing strategy and stick by there liscence.

  10. I welcome the restrictions. for the residents in the surrounding streets the bar leads to a substantial increase in noise, litter and drug dealing. Drug dealing and it’s associated problems has increased markedly over the last year. Empty bottle, cans and vomit surround the building on a Sunday and remain until Monday when the roads are swept.

  11. Hootenanny is fundamental to today’s live music scene. It needs to be protected & respected. I sincerely hope the council & police help to rectify the current licensing issues by a better appreciation & compromise to ensure the continued success of this fine & special establishment.
    My very best wishes
    Gaz Mayall

  12. Hootenanny is a vibrant hub of musical culture that is unique to Brixton. It encapsulates the rich caribbean culture and mixes it with other world music that is the very sound and essence of Brixton itself…. These kind of venue ensure the culture of the area through music is maintained and developed for generations to come.

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