Councillor Aicha Less standing next to Andy Joseph outside Piano Works in Soho.
Cllr Aicha Less (left) cabinet member for communities, public protection and licensing at Westminster Council, with Andy Joseph, head of music at Piano Works, one of the first venues to receive the certificate. Photo: Westminster Council.

Westminster Council has launched a business certificate to identify venues that are focused on increasing safety for women in the evening and night-time economy.

The Night Haven accreditation network, which is the first of its kind in the UK, is designed to make sure all visitors and staff in Westminster’s night-time economy stay safe and free from harassment.

According to a 2021 Westminster Council survey, 66 percent of women in the borough had had a personal experience of street harassment, and 45 percent reported feeling unsafe at night.

The most common crimes being violence and sexual offences, which is particularly high in the West End says the local authority.

By working with businesses and teaching them how to spot unwanted behaviour, the council says it is committed to reducing these numbers and making the city a safe and enjoyable place for residents and visitors.

The scheme is not compulsory but the council says that by publishing a list of approved venues on its website businesses will want to sign up.

The accreditation asks venues to ensure their staff are trained on how to support women who “Ask for Angela” — a discreet way for women to seek help in an uncomfortable or dangerous situation.

Cllr Aicha Less, cabinet member for communities and public protection and licensing, at Westminster Council said:  

“Everyone, especially women, have the right to feel safe. But unfortunately, the anti-social behaviour of some individuals can ruin a night out or someone’s experience of our city.  

“Being able to share details of Westminster’s accredited venues, where women and visitors can feel safe, is vital to fulfilling our Fairer Westminster commitment that safeguards residents and visitors when enjoying Westminster’s vibrant nightlife. 

“With more businesses joining the scheme, we can create a trusted network of venues where people feel safe, and staff can call out unwanted harassment,” she said.

The council will issue a certificate and digital logo to demonstrate that a venue has passed the requirements.

It is funded from a Home Office grant of £289,600 awarded to the local authority last year to deliver a package of measures to combat sexual harassment and improve women’s safety in the West End. It includes a behavioural change campaign, night safety walks, expansion of the Night Stars Service, and women’s safety training.

Piano Works in Soho is one of the first businesses to be accredited.

“We are always pleased to be involved in any initiative that helps our guests to feel safe and welcome,” said Tristan Moffat, operations director.

“Our musicians and entire teams are trained to spot unwelcome behaviour and we are delighted that our West End venue have been recognised and accredited by this excellent scheme. 

“We will certainly encourage our friends in other venues in Soho to join,” he said.

Businesses can apply by taking the assessment which is available on Westminster Council’s website.

Successful businesses are encouraged to display a sign on their venues to notify people of their night-time safety status and participation in the scheme.

An investigation in 2021 by the Metro newspaper found that many London venues were pledging to protect women’s safety but doing little about it in practice.

Westminster Council says that although the scheme is voluntary its certificate has to be renewed annually and there are random spot checks from the council’s City Inspectors to make sure venues are complying.

In neighbouring Camden the council’s statement of licensing policy has a set of women’s safety principles that it wants licensed premises to adopt. Some of its licensing panels are taking the decision to attach these principles as a condition on a new premises licence if an applicant does not volunteer to offer them.

Westminster City Council, Women’s Night Safety Accreditation.