An arts centre’s bid for a licence to host events and sell alcohol until the early hours of the morning in Brighton’s most notorious drinking hotspot has been refused.
The Synergy Centre, which has been operating in the former Hed Kandi nightclub since last summer, argued that because it attracts a better class of customers interested in “consciousness”, an exception to the rule that no new late night alcohol licences should be granted in the city centre should be made for them.
It also said that it needed to be able to sell alcohol in order to fund community projects with the proceeds.
But today, Brighton and Hove City Council’s licensing committee said the hours and capacity requested by the venue meant it would inevitably worsen problems in the most challenging area of the city centre’s cumulative impact zone.
The panel said: “This has been a difficult decision for the panel. We have considered all aspects of our policy; however, the special policy on cumulative impact is paramount here as is the question of whether the applicant has demonstrated that there will be no negative cumulative impact arising from their application.
“The policy is not absolute and that the impact can be different for premises of different styles and characteristics so that where a high capacity nightclub or pub might add to problems, a small restaurant or theatre up to midnight may not.
“The Synergy Centre is not a small venue even with a reduced capacity of 800, and the hours of operation are still extended until 1 and 2am on Friday and Saturday nights. The location is in the most challenging part of the CIZ.
“On balance, the panel consider that the arguments of the police and the licensing authority are more persuasive. We find the arguments about the nature and demographic of prospective customers problematic in that ultimately there will be more people in an already saturated and challenging area and we share the concerns of the police that this will give rise to negative cumulative impact.”
Writing on its Facebook page, the venue’s manager Steve Peake said: “Bad news people, the licence app was refused.
“The committee accepted bogus arguments about sheer numbers, refusing to take into account the kind of people attending our events.
“Suspect we will go to appeal.”
The decision followed a marathon 11-hour hearing over two days, in which police and centre management often found themselves at loggerheads.
The management accused the police of being resistant, both in not accepting its arguments about its clientele being more into “consciousness” and therefore peaceful, and in saying both the police and the council’s licensing officers had not spent enough time accommodating the centre’s needs.
In response, police said they had spent up to 60 hours talking with the centre, and that it had concerns over its management following several breaches of licensing laws.
The future of the arts centre is under threat whether or not it is granted a license, as its owners, who are renting it to Synergy on a meanwhile lease, want to knock it down and turn it into a luxury hotel in the next 18-24 months.