Pubwatch and Clubs
Pubwatch is a scheme in which several licensed establishments in an area join together to voluntarily enforce bans against disruptive patrons. However, some clubs that have chosen to participate in Pubwatch have found that they have faced certain conundrums since clubs have their own disciplinary procedures not linked to that of Pubwatch.
A key question that arises is whether a club can ever actually ban a member for something they did on another premises?
The ACC’s Model Rules give clubs the power to expel or suspend membership for up to one year. Generally our Rules stipulate that a complaint must be made to the Committee however the complaint need not be made from a member of the club, if the complaint came from the Pubwatch in the area it would still be valid. It is then up to the Committee of the club to ascertain if the complaint is valid and what action to take against the member. Even if the Committee was inclined to take action against a member for a misdemeanour committed elsewhere, the punishment the Committee decide upon will often be different from what Pubwatch deems necessary.
Pubwatch generally ban people for a minimum of one year whilst clubs tend to have a maximum suspension of one year within their Rules and the option of expulsion for more serious cases. It is these types of situations which typically lead clubs to encounter difficulties with the local Pubwatch when they disagree on the punishment of the accused.
There do not seem to be any rules set in stone regarding what to do if a club and the local Pubwatch disagree on the punishment.
Some clubs have felt that they cannot continue to contribute to the Pubwatch scheme if they have been placed in the position of supporting their members over the concerns of Pubwatch. Others have remained within the scheme, participating as much as possible. In situations like these it must be up to the individual local club to decide the best course of action when conflict arises.
The tendency of Pubwatch schemes to exert unfair and intimidating pressure on clubs acting within their own rules has proved a problem in certain instances. An important point for any club involved in this kind of standoff with Pubwatch is that Pubwatch should be aware of the constraints in which private members clubs are obligated to conform with. Members enjoy certain disciplinary rights under the Rules of a club.
In the FAQ section on the Pubwatch website they have this to say on the matter:
A Pub or Club in our area refuses to join our Pubwatch, what should we do?
In the ease of a club they may actually have a problem in joining a watch if they are a members club as membership gives them certain rights in relation to the premises. Normally members of clubs cannot be refused access or service unless they have breached the clubs rules which means that if they are banned by the Pubwatch for an incident at premises other than the club the ban would not be enforceable by the club unless their rules allowed for this.
Pubwatch’s own website acknowledges that local clubs cannot be forced to join Pubwatch and only encourages that they do so. However this has not stopped certain local Pubwatch schemes applying pressure on premises that do not abide by Pubwatch decisions or opt out of the scheme.
The ACC is by no means denying the good work and the good results that many of the local Pubwatch schemes achieve, however in our view the demands that are placed on clubs who opt to be members of the Pubwatch scheme can be at odds with the rights and obligations that members of the club are entitled to.
Clubs should always enforce their own rules above those of a Pubwatch scheme and whilst clubs can take notice of decisions and complaints stemming from Pubwatch, the Committee must be allowed to have the final say on disciplinary matters by following the club’s correct procedure for these matters. We must also stress that Pubwatch is a voluntary scheme and run independently.
Do not believe any representative of Pubwatch who may suggest that a failure to participate can affect a club’s legal position under the Licensing Act 2003. Pubwatch simply do not have this authority, and in the majority of cases would not seek to suggest they have.
Indeed, the disciplinary procedure that most clubs voluntarily adopt is often harsher than a pub equivalent and the licensing authorities will take this into account. A member banned from a club may not have been banned for bad behaviour, for our clubs a change in political party affiliation is a legitimate reason for expelling a member but no one would seek to suggest they should be barred from other establishments.
It is clear that when clubs are part of a Pubwatch group that there needs to be a understanding about how clubs are bound by their own operational rules and must conduct their own disciplinary affairs with regards to their members. The ACC advises that as long as Pubwatch groups can accept these limitations then there can be mutual advantages to clubs being involved, on some level, with Pubwatch.
Questions and Answers on Pub Watch:
We had two members banned under the Pubwatch scheme but the Club committee decided not to ban them from the Club. Pubwatch is now asking us to leave the scheme?
Clubs or Pubs who do not enforce the local Pubwatch decisions may be invited to leave the voluntary scheme and will no longer be notified of troublemakers or have the access to the local constabulary links that Pubwatch schemes have. This is an unfortunate side effect of the differences between approaches that clubs and Pubwatch have with regards to disciplinary matters and is something that Pubwatch is within its rights to request y of clubs. However, we would always suggest to Pubwatch that clubs be allowed to remain on the scheme, even if their own rules sometimes preclude them from full participation in the scheme.
Our Rules give the Committee the power to suspend members for a maximum of 12 months, however the local Pubwatch scheme bans offenders for a minimum of 12 months, how can we reconcile the two?
The ACC would not recommend that clubs alter their rules so that they have the power to suspend members for more than 12 months. Firstly, since a suspended member is still liable to pay their subscription it seems unfair to suspend them for more than one cycle of their subscription, and secondly, if any member has committed such a serious act to warrant suspension for longer than twelve months then the Committee should instead look to expel that member. The ACC advises that Committees keep in mind that their primary obligation is to the Members of the club and not to satisfying Pubwatch. The club must be seen to be acting independently with regards to punishments given to Members.
We’ve had a falling out with Pubwatch and they are suggesting that our failure to participate may hinder our future license renewal or requests to the Local Authority. Is this true?
Pubwatch has absolutely no authority to decide on these matters and local authorities have set procedures for dealing with applications for Club Premises Certificate (CPC). Pubwatch does not usually play a role in these considerations. As long as the club have satisfied the requirements for the CPC that you have applied for it is unlikely Pubwatch could do anything to prevent a CPC being issued or influence an existing CPC being withdrawn. Members of the Local Authority or constabulary may sit in on Pubwatch meetings but this should not prejudice them against clubs that do not partake in the scheme.
Do we have to be part of Pubwatch to satisfy the conditions placed on us by the Licensing Act 2003?
In no way does a club have to be a Pubwatch member to fulfil any obligations under the Licensing Act 2003. To qualify for the Club Premises Certificate there are obligations under the Act that a club must satisfy. These include rules for membership, that the club conducts itself in good faith, with at least 25 members. The general provisions revolve around making sure the supply of Alcohol is limited to over 18’s, is restricted to club members and their guests and that alcohol is sold and purchased responsibly. There is no need to be part of a Pubwatch scheme as long as the club applies a common sense approach to Alcohol sales and consumption.
Apart from the criteria needed for the CPC, there are 4 main objectives of the Licensing Act 2003 that pubs and clubs are required to show they satisfy:
- The Prevention of Crime and Disorder.
- Public Safety.
- The prevention of Public Nuisance.
- The protection of Children from Harm.
Clearly by having a strict disciplinary procedure and a system where members pay a subscription to be allowed access, clubs are already providing a much stricter and controlled environment for alcohol consumption than a pub can do. A club can easily achieve these objectives without having to be involved with Pubwatch.