Venue: Council Chamber, Brighton Town Hall. View directions
Contact: Jane Clarke, Democratic Services Officer
To appoint a Chairman for the Meeting
146.1 Councillor Mrs Cobb was appointed Chairman for the meeting.
(b) Declarations of Interest by all Members present of any personal interests in matters on the agenda, the nature of any interest and whether the Members regard the interest as prejudicial under the terms of the Code of Conduct.
(c) Exclusion of Press and Public - To consider whether, in view of the nature of the business to be transacted, or the nature of the proceedings, the press and public should be excluded from the meeting when any of the following items are under consideration.
NOTE: Any item appearing in Part 2 of the Agenda states in its heading either that it is confidential or the category under which the information disclosed in the report is exempt from disclosure and therefore not available to the public.
A list and description of the categories of exempt information is available for public inspection at Brighton and Hove Town Halls.
147a Declaration of Substitutes
147.1 There were none.
147b Declarations of Interest
147.2 There were none.
147c Exclusion of the Press and Public
147.3 In accordance with Section 100A of the Local Government Act 1972 (“The Act”), the Licensing Panel considered whether the press and public should be excluded from the meeting during an item of business on the grounds that it was likely, in view of the nature of the business to be transacted or the nature of the proceedings, that if members of the press or public were present during that item, that there would be disclosure to them of confidential information (as defined in Section 100A(3) of the Act) or exempt information (as defined in Section 100(1) of the Act).
147.4 RESOLVED – That the press and public be not excluded.
Report of the Assistant Director Public Safety (copy attached).
148.1 The Panel considered a report from the Assistant Director of Public Safety regarding an application for variation of a premises licence under the Licensing Act 2003 for Hi Fi Lounge, 43 Providence Place, Brighton, BN1
148.2 The Environmental Protection Officer, Mr Alun Cance, and Inspector Harris from Sussex Police attended the hearing to speak against the application. The applicant, Mr Terrance King, was not present at the start of the meeting.
148.3 Ms Jean Cranford from the Licensing Authority summarised the application and stated that the request was to vary the licence to include live music on the licence. The premises had previously operated as a club with live and recorded music, dancing and late night refreshments on the licence. A review of the licence took place in 2008 where all regulated entertainment was excluded from the licence. The Environmental Protection Team and Sussex Police raised objections to the current variation application. Ms Cranford highlighted paragraph 1.15 from the Statement of Licensing Policy that any conditions placed on the licence should focus on matter that were in the control of the Licensee.
148.4 The Chairman asked if there were any questions and there were none.
148.5 Mr Cance began his representation and stated that he objected to the application on the grounds of prevention of public nuisance. He was concerned that there were no specific noise control measures or management details relating to the control of smokers proposed by the venue, or any indication of how the music noise levels would be controlled, including no details on the restriction of use of doors and windows whilst live music was being played. Mr Cance referred to the review hearing held in July 2008 that also related to the prevention of public nuisance, and noted that the Panel at that time had withdrawn all regulated entertainment from the licence. The applicant, Mr King, had also been issued with a formal caution for repeated breaches of a Noise Abatement Order during this time and Mr Cance was concerned that the same situation would occur again should the variation be granted.
148.6 The Chairman asked if there were any questions and Councillor Lepper noted that it was difficult to assess this case as the Licensee was not present to represent himself. She was confused about the ownership of the premises as it appeared from the papers that Mr King was handing over control of the venue to the current tenants. Ms Cranford replied that Leandro Chesil appeared to be the leaseholder, but Mr King continued to own the premises.
148.7 Councillor Lepper asked whether Mr King would continue to be the Designated Premises Supervisor and Mr Cance replied that the situation at the premises was unclear at this time. Councillor Lepper was concerned that there was no information available about the prospective leaseholders. Ms Cranford noted previous history with the applicant at different premises where he had assured the Panel that he would be relinquishing control of a premises and this had subsequently not transpired. She added that the Licensing Authority had no clear details on the arrangements at the premises at this time.
148.8 Councillor Harmer-Strange asked how many noise complaints had been received regarding the premises. Mr Cance replied that there was one written complaint and several recorded complaints about amplified music. He felt that attention needed to be paid to problems with outside noise and this was a specific concern for the Environmental Protection Team.
148.9 Councillor Harmer-Strange asked if the outside area was used by smokers, and how many typically congregated. Mr Cance replied that the outside pavement and roadway was narrow and on late night visits Officers had witnessed between 15 and 20 people smoking outside the venue. There was a general atmosphere of no control of this situation.
148.10 The Chairman asked if there had been any more complaints since exclusion of regulated entertainment on the licence and Mr Cance replied there had been one anonymous complaint, but this could not be followed up properly by the Team.
148.11 Inspector Harris began her representation and stated that the Police were objecting on the grounds of Prevention of Crime and Disorder, Public Safety and Protection of Children from Harm. The Police shared the concerns of the Environmental Protection Team as to who was responsible for the premises and there was a lack of information on the prospective tenants. She believed the tenants had been shown a copy of the original licence which allowed regulated entertainment and that they were originally unaware of any modifications. She believed the variation applied for today was to reinstate the original licence for the new tenants.
Inspector Harris went on to say that the application had been poorly written and did not address effective conditions for what would essentially become a nightclub. Sussex Police had not been contacted by Mr King to discuss the application, but the issues were straightforward and would not require onerous conditions to rectify, such as details around the supply of door staff and promotion of taxi and bus services.
Other concerns were apparent at the establishment however, and on recently licensing visits a number of breaches were noted. There was only one member of staff working on the bar and when the toilets were checked for the presence of drugs cocaine was detected in the male toilets. Advice was given to the member of staff regarding this. At the time of the licensing check the current tenant, Leandro Chesil appeared to be under the influence of drugs, however he did co-operate with the Police and most of the breaches were dealt with. On a second licensing check traces of drugs were again found in the toilets and at the seated tables. A further check was conducted on 26 March following a live music event that had been conducted using a Temporary Event Notice (TEN). There had been a technical error on the TEN with the wrong date stated for the event, and whilst this was a basic administrative error, Inspector Harris believed it demonstrated the general lack of management at the premises. Due to the problems identified at the premises and the lack of confidence the Police had in the current management arrangements, Inspector Harris believed that the current conditions were appropriate and that the variation should not be granted.
148.12 The Chairman asked if there were any questions and Councillor Harmer-Strange asked what had transpired during the temporary event. Inspector Harris replied that a licensing visit had taken place on the Friday of the event and breaches were witnessed. She was unsure if the event took place over the entire weekend.
148.13 Councillor Harmer-Strange asked if the Police had any more information on the current tenants and Inspector Harris replied that they had no further details. She was unable to discuss their suitability as Licence Holders, but she would be very concerned if the tenants appeared to be drug users.
148.14 Councillor Lepper stated that the presence of drugs at the premises was very disturbing and she noted the reference by the Police to unsavoury characters in the premises during one of the licensing visits. Inspector Harris replied that this had been the interpretation of the Officer conducting the visit at the time. He witnessed that a number of customers appeared to be unsettled by the presence of the Police. She added that a baby had been present on the premises at 19.30 hours and noted that the licence only permitted the children of the DPS to be on site. Mr Chesil had stated that the baby was his own child.
148.15 Councillor Lepper asked if it was a usual reaction for people to be unsettled in the presence of the police and Inspector Harris replied that generally the atmosphere was more jovial if customers had been drinking and more light hearted. She noted that the behaviour was unusual and indicated that the customers wanted to avoid the police.
148.16 Councillor Lepper asked if there was a concern that the tenant was taking drugs and possibly dealing drugs and Inspector Harris responded that evidence had been submitted in this regard and that the premises was a matter of concern.
148.17 The applicant, Mr King arrived at the hearing 10.35 am.
148.18 The Chairman asked if Mr King would like an outline of the proceedings so far and a review of the representations against his application. Mr King replied that he had read the papers and was happy to proceed on this basis.
148.19 Mr King began his representation and stated that he was present at the hearing as the freeholder and had let the premises out at the beginning of January 2010. There had recently been two temporary events at the premises, which had occurred without incident and sound limiters were now installed at the premises. The tenants were happy to adhere to the current conditions on the licence but Mr King did feel that the requirement for three door staff was unnecessary and the costs to the establishment would be extortionate. He added that as the premises was relatively small it would result in a ratio of one door supervisor to every 40 customers. He felt that the premises was operating to the spirit and the letter of the licence that was granted.
148.20 Councillor Harmer-Strange asked what discussions had taken place with responsible authorities regarding the current situation at the premises. Mr King replied that none had taken place. Councillor Harmer-Strange asked why this was and Mr King replied that he thought the process of the application would have satisfied this requirement.
148.21 Councillor Lepper asked if Mr King owned the freehold to the premises, whether he was still the Licence Holder and DPS. Mr King replied that the premises had been let in January and he was acting as the landlord.
148.22 Councillor Lepper asked who the DPS of the premises was and Mr King replied that the DPS was changing to one of the tenants and Mr King’s assistant would be arriving with the forms as proof of this shortly. He added that the tenants were two former builders who wanted to run an over 25’s lounge. Mr King added that there would not be club music played and the live music would be for more alternative music forms rather than club bands. Around £60,000 had been spent on refurbishment of the club and as far as he was aware it was operating without any problems.
148.23 Councillor Lepper asked if the tenants would be taking Personal Licence qualifications and Mr King replied that they were awaiting their disclosure certificates. Councillor Lepper asked if one of these people would be the DPS and Mr King replied that they would.
148.24 Mr Cance asked why neither Mr King nor his tenants were in contact with the Environmental Protection Team to install the sound limiters at an appropriate level, and why the new tenants had not be introduced to Officers in the department to give them more confidence. Mr King replied he was the landlord and it was up to the tenants to do this. He added that there was not currently a need for a sound limiter with the existing licence and it would only need to be used if the variation was granted.
148.25 Mr Cance responded that the authority needed to be satisfied on these issues before a variation could be granted to ensure there was confidence that any problems that might arise as a result of the grant would be dealt with appropriately. He added that the premises had had problems with live music in the past. Mr King agreed this but added that the premises would meet any conditions that the Environmental Protection Team felt necessary to add to the licence.
148.26 Inspector Harris asked who the current DPS was and Mr King replied that he was.
148.27 Inspector Harris asked why the licence had not been transferred if the tenants had already spent money on the premises. Mr King replied that the licence would not be transferring and this was down to business reasons. He added that the value of the freehold on the building was increased by the Premises Licence and he would be retaining both of these.
148.28 Inspector Harris asked if Mr King was aware of the licensing visits that had occurred recently. He replied he was aware there had been small breaches of the licence found.
148.29 Inspector Harris asked if he was aware that there had been only one member of staff working when one of the visits had taken place and that the licence required two members of staff. Mr King was not aware of this.
148.30 Inspector Harris asked if he was aware that traces of drugs had been found on two separate occasions at the premises and Mr King replied that he was not and had not been informed by the tenants of this.
148.31 Inspector Harris asked if he was aware there had been a follow-up visit by the Police conducted on 15 March 2010 and Mr King stated he was not aware of this.
148.32 Inspector Harris asked if Mr King was aware that as the Licence Holder and DPS that he was still responsible for the premises. Mr King replied that he was aware of this, but added that he would no longer be DPS as of today.
148.33 Mr Beckingham, the tenant to the premises, addressed the Panel and stated that he had being working as a food manager for the last six years. Inspector Harris asked what experience he had of managing nightclubs and Mr Beckingham replied that he was familiar with licensing laws as he ran a banqueting venue.
148.34 Inspector Harris asked who Mr Beckingham’s partner was and he replied that Ms Janet Leon was his partner. Mr King added that they would be appointing a manager as they did not have their Personal Licences at present.
148.35 Inspector Harris asked Mr King if he was aware of the breach on the 26 March regarding the TEN and Mr King replied he was not aware.
148.36 Inspector Harris asked how as leaseholder Mr King would uphold and manage the licensing objectives at the premises. Mr King replied that although he was the Licence Holder he would not be the DPS. He would ask for sight of any documents relating to licensing visits however.
148.37 Inspector Harris asked what action would be taken as a result of drugs being found on the premises on two occasions. Mr King replied that a drugs policy would be put in place and that he would discuss the problem with the security company employed by the premises to ensure it did not happen again.
148.38 Inspector Harris stated that she felt the conditions detailing increases in door staff numbers were reasonable and asked for Mr King’s opinion. He stated that this would be very commercially harsh on the business and he would prefer not to do this. He offered to check the toilets every ½ hour and to report any findings back to the Police. Inspector Harris asked how only two door staff would manage this and Mr King replied that the premises normally accommodated 125 patrons and was not a city centre venue. As such he felt that this was practical for the door staff to manage. He added that extra security arrangements would be made on an ad-hoc basis for busy nights.
148.39 Inspector Harris replied that the finances of a business were not a licensing concern and she did not believe that the premises was being managed sufficiently well at present. She asked who licensed the door staff at the premises. Mr King believed it was Brighton & Hove City Council and Inspector Harris informed him that the Security Industry Authority licensed door supervisors. Inspector Harris was seriously concerned about the management of the existing licence at the premises and did not feel a variation would be appropriate at this time. She referred to the problems with drugs at the premises and Mr King responded that he would like to withdraw his application for a variation.
148.40 The Chairman asked Mr King if he was withdrawing his application for variation of the licence and if he was happy for the Panel to call a halt to the proceedings. Mr King replied that he was happy to do this and that on the evidence from the Police he had heard today, he would be serving an eviction notice on his tenants and would inform the police of when this was completed.
148.41 On this basis the Chairman ended the hearing at 11.03 am.