Dancing becomes pub owners' nightmare Most British bars lack license for it
By Jane Wardell
Nov. 23, 2002
LONDON - You're drinking with friends in a pub in London's lively West End when a catchy tune comes on the jukebox and you begin swaying to the music. Stop right there, before you break the law.
A British pub chain was fined $7,850 after undercover inspectors caught patrons dancing at two of its bars. The crime: flouting licensing laws that ban "rhythmic moving."
Another pub where customers were found "swaying" was served two written warnings.
Under British law, dancing is allowed only in pubs that have public entertainment licenses. But getting the license from local governments can be an expensive and overly bureaucratic process and, consequently, only around 5 percent of pubs, restaurants and nightclubs currently allow live entertainment and dancing.
"We have spent ages trying to stop people dancing. We have signs up everywhere. Managers instruct customers. We turn the music down, rearrange the furniture and so on," said Derek Andrews, spokesman for Wolverhampton & Dudley Breweries, owners of the Pitcher & Piano chain, which pleaded guilty to the offenses at a London Magistrates Court on Wednesday.
Undercover inspectors from Westminster Council spotted a clear breach when they paid a visit to a Pitcher & Piano bar in the West End and found four people dancing to recorded music.
A return visit to the same pub caught five more people in the act, while at another Pitcher & Piano bar 11 drinkers were discovered indulging in "rhythmic moving."
Bob Currie, director of the council's community protection department, believes the rules about what constitutes dancing are clear: It's "rhythmic moving of the legs, arms and body, usually changing positions within the floor space available and whether or not accompanied by musical support."
Westminster Council said the two pubs had ignored advice that they were encouraging dancing and should apply for an entertainment license.
Andrews insisted that the pubs tried to comply with the licensing laws.
"To the best of my knowledge," he said, "spontaneous dancing is not in the top 10 lists of great social ills of our time."