This research article critically engages with the Licensing Act (2003), arguing for a more holistic approach to licensing. Drawing on primary research conducted in London for the Greater London Authority (GLA), the article considers the positive benefits of licensed venues and the possibility of extending the licensing objectives to include their role in sustaining urban vitality. The current licensing objectives are steered towards minimising negative outcomes, with the assumption being that licensing is primarily a tool of control and minimising harm. The argument developed here is based on two alternative conceptions of the role of licensing. Firstly, licensing has a key role to play in developing sites for sociability and community cohesion. Though focused around alcohol, licensing is central to enabling or constraining more traditional as well as emerging spaces which combine entertainment, dining and other experimental forms of leisure. Second, the article argues that by addressing urban vitality and cultural benefit, the Act could be more attuned to the positive influence of licensed premises at a broader scale. The need for planning and licensing to work more cooperatively is considered in light of how licensing decisions reach beyond individual venues and impact on entire neighbourhoods or areas. Focusing on two London boroughs, Croydon and Lambeth, the paper examines how the current approach by local authorities to licensing could therefore be re-framed in more positive terms to acknowledge the wider cultural benefits and social good of licensed premises.