Brighton’s oldest gay pub can continue to trade despite a request by the police that it should be closed for breaking licensing rules.
The Bulldog will, though, close much earlier, particularly at weekends, after a licensing panel was told about a series of problems at the St James’s Street premises.
It also has to employ extra door staff and breath test customers who appear drunk whether they are trying to go into the pub or are already inside before serving them.
Sussex Police applied to the licensing authority – Brighton and Hove City Council – for a review of the Bulldog’s licence.
Initially it asked for the licence to be revoked. But, on the day of the hearing (Monday 21 September), the force indicated that a suspension would be acceptable subject to extra licensing conditions.
The licensing panel, chaired by Labour councillor Mo Marsh, sitting with Green councillor Lizzie Deane and Conservative councillor Dee Simson, spent a day hearing evidence.
They said: “There has been a series of serious incidents relating to the premises over the last 18 months which have undermined the licensing objectives.
“The main features of these are unacceptable levels of intoxication leading to serious assaults.
“There has also been a failed test purchase and admittance of children to the premises.
“Two sets of differing recommendations have been proposed to the panel by the police and the premises licence holder (Dean Holmes). Both these involve a form of suspension and modification of conditions.
“The panel has carefully considered each set of proposals and the reasons underpinning them.
“We have considered the one-month full closure proposed by the police but consider that, because of the different nature of the operation of the premises before and after midnight, it is more proportionate and effective in light of the evidence we have heard to require the premises to suspend all licensable activities after midnight for a period of 28 days which will act as a deterrent and break a link with late-night activities.
“This is to be achieved by the following condition – for a period of 28 days, all licensable activities will cease at midnight. The premises will close at 1am.
“Following this 28-day period, the panel has decided to modify the hours of operation so that from Sunday to Thursday (inclusive) all licensable activities must cease at 12 midnight with a closing time of 1am.
“On Friday and Saturday all licensable activities to cease at 2am, with a closing time of 3am.
“For the avoidance of doubt, these closing times are to be made conditions on the licence.
“The panel notes that the police have requested a 1am terminal hour for the sale of alcohol every day and that the licence holder has proposed later hours.
“We do recognise that the licence holder has taken a number of steps recently to improve the situation but believe, in light of the serious incidents which have occurred and the challenges posed by the later trading hours, a terminal hour of 2am on Friday and Saturday will enable the premises to promote the licensing objectives and protect the wider community.”
The licensing panel also imposed a number of conditions, including the operation of a “Challenge 25” policy, supported by staff training.
It means that anyone trying to buy alcohol who appears to be under 25 will be asked for photographic ID to prove their age.
The panel also imposed a condition that the Bulldog joins the Brighton Crime Reduction Partnership.
It must have at least two door staff on duty from 10pm until the pub shuts on Friday and Saturday nights. And on Friday and Saturday nights it has to have an extra bouncer from midnight until the pub shuts.
Drinks are to be served in plastic rather than glass and CCTV now has to be installed in the toilet areas.
The Bulldog was also told to operate a breathalyser system so that anyone appearing to be drunk will be required to take a breath test before being allowed in or being served.
The pub has lost its “off sales” licence. It has to arrange for an independent operator to carry out test purchases at least once every three months to curb under-age drinking.
A maximum of six people are allowed outside to smoke after midnight on Friday and Saturday nights and no drinks are allowed outside.
The panel “would also request that the premises licence holder give consideration to the proposal that the last two unisex cubicles are redesignated women only”.
The Bulldog has 21 days to appeal.