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Last Updated: Tuesday, 15 November 2005, 17:50 GMT
Blair's local denied late licence
Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell at the Red Lion in Whitehall

It was the famous Westminster watering hole from where Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell proudly called time on the UK's antiquated licensing laws.

She even pulled a pint at the Red Lion to signal the beginning of round-the-clock drinking.

But when the pub applied for a late licence, it was denied following police and council objections on the grounds of public nuisance and public safety.

Number 10 says it had nothing to do with the application.

'Treasury pub'

Westminster Council said the Red Lion's plans were "deemed refused" because there had not been time for a hearing.

The Spirit Group, which owns the establishment, is planning to appeal against the decision.

The Red Lion is sited just yards away from Downing Street, but has traditionally been regarded as a "Treasury pub" because it was once a base for Gordon Brown's former spin chief Charlie Whelan.

Downing Street has not been involved in any way, m'lud
Prime Minister's official spokesman

It hit the headlines when two Liberal Democrat researchers allegedly overheard Mr Whelan delivering secret briefings that the chancellor would keep Britain out of the euro.

The Red Lion had wanted to stay open until 1am from Thursday to Saturday and until midnight the rest of the week.

The pub had also asked permission for karaoke, dancing and live music, and later opening on Bank Holidays.

But, according to documents obtained by the Conservatives under the Freedom of Information Act, the police and environmental health officials advised against granting the licence extension.

'No influence'

Shadow culture secretary Theresa May said: "The news that Tony Blair and Gordon Brown will be able to get a good night's sleep is of no comfort to the local residents on the receiving end of Labour's yob culture.

"Most people won't be as lucky as Downing Street's tenants.

"These laws threaten an explosion in public nuisance and violent crime across the country - but not for Labour ministers who don't want it in their backyard."

However, the prime minister's official spokesman would not be drawn on whether Mr Blair was disappointed by the decision.

"That is entirely a matter for the police and licensing authority and therefore they should not take it out on me when I next go there for a drink," he joked.

"Downing Street has not been involved in any way, m'lud."

One Westminster worker, who had supported later closing for the Red Lion, told the council it was "imperative" for all those who "finish very late and sometimes like a pint after work".

He added that, since the 7 July bombings, it was important "Londoners not be diverted from their way of life - and my way of life is a pint of Guinness".

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