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A virtual ban on new bars and off licences will be brought in across much of Islington as town hall bosses seek a “fundamental shift” in drinking culture.

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Most of the borough’s nightlife hotspots, such as Upper Street, King’s Cross and Old Street, will soon come under new “saturation” zones where it will be almost impossible to open up new licensed ventures.

In order to get permission to sell alcohol, proprietors would have to prove their premises would in no way contribute to problems of crime and disorder. The council insists this will be an extremely tough test.

Cllr Paul Convery, Islington Council’s executive member for community safety, said: “We’re basically saying we have got enough and we need a fundamental shift in the overall licensing regime in this borough.

“New pubs, clubs and off licences will not get licences. The only exceptions will be in special circumstances when they can show they really will be very benign – but it’s a very tough test. This will be a virtual ban.”

The plans were endorsed at a full council meeting last Thursday, with zones set to cover the whole of Clerkenwell and Bunhill wards, and most of Caledonian, Barnsbury, St Mary’s and St Peter’s wards. They also cover town centres in Archway, Nag’s Head and Finsbury Park.

A small saturation zone has already been piloted around Farringdon station in Clerkenwell ward and the expansion will come into effect in January.

The measure is part of a wide-ranging review of licensing, with Islington’s Labour-run council also set to charge venues with late licences a levy of between £300 and £4,500, as first reported in the Gazette in July.

Cllr Convery has estimated up to £500,000 could be raised, most of which will be channelled into the police and could fund some 15 extra officers to combat drink-fuelled crime.

The council will also invoke blanket orders known as Early Morning Restriction Orders, which allow it to scale back opening hours for all licensed premises in areas plagued with problems.

Islington has 1,300 alcohol sellers – the second highest concentration in the country after Westminster – and nearly one-third hold late licenses. Cllr Convery said the borough has the second highest level of violent crimes attributed to alcohol per head.

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