Brick Lane is defined by its touts, who stand outside every restaurant enticing passersby to try ‘the best curry in London’. Yet now this extravagant self-promotion is to be banned.
I’ve just received an email from a Manifesto Club supporter, reporting that ‘Tower Hamlets council’s latest initiative is to ban restaurant owners from using touts outside their establishments to entice customers in. An anti-tout pledge will now be added to their licensing conditions. Are touts, with their old world manners and quaint turn of phrases, really a threat to anyone seeking a good curry?’
I don’t imagine anyone has complained about the touts, and what harm do they do? Surely there are more pressing problems in Tower Hamlets for the council to be dealing with.
This case is a sign of the increasingly coercive use of licensing conditions, to limit and control activities within bars and restaurants. Other bars have received conditions that they instill bag searches, or CRB check staff. 20 years ago, you got your license and that was that: now licenses have become a mechanism for policing social life in highly intrusive ways.
I wonder if the Brick Lane touts will back down. Let’s hope not – after all, the best curry in London should not go unsung.