A police chief said that he would appeal after Brighton’s oldest gay pub was given a reprieve when its licence was reviewed by a panel this week.
Chief Superintendent Nev Kemp will ask magistrates to help keep people safe by backing the measures that he supported at the licensing panel hearing on Monday (21 September).
The divisional commander for Brighton and Hove said that the proposals requested by Sussex Police were carefully considered.
The force said: “Sussex Police is to launch an appeal against Brighton and Hove City Council licensing committee’s decision following their review of the Bulldog public house licence.
“On Monday the committee turned down a number of conditions requested by police who are concerned about the levels of crime connected to this venue.
“City police commander, Chief Superintendent Nev Kemp, is disappointed by the decision and believes that the committee has failed to take the opportunity to sufficiently improve the safety of people attending the Bulldog.”
Chief Superintendent Kemp said: “We had initially sought revocation of the pub’s licence but following that request we had further meetings with the owner where he said that he was willing to make improvements to the way the premises was run.
“I felt it appropriate to ask the committee to consider a number of changes aimed at keeping people safe instead of revoking the licence completely.
“I did not want the Bulldog to close but I do want it to become a far safer place than it has been for too long now.
“And I believe that without substantial improvements to the way in which it is run, it also has the potential of damaging the reputation of other licensed premises in the Kemp Town area, which I do not want to see either.
“The changes to the Bulldog licence that we had requested had been carefully considered and were reasonable and measured and our concerns were supported in the committee hearing by a representative for the council’s directors for public health and children’s services as well as local residents.
“The changes to the licence stipulated by the committee, however, are in my view insufficient to ensure the improvements necessary and substantially reduce the plethora of breaches to the existing licence conditions over recent months along with some very serious incidents.”
Changes requested by the police included a reduction of hours to a 1am end of licensable activity and closing at 2am on Fridays and Saturdays, a four-week closure period and a licence condition requiring the implementation of an electronic identification scanning system.
“Installation of this system had been offered by the owner during negotiations but has yet to be installed despite proving successful in reducing crime and disorder and catching offenders – including for sexual assaults – at a number of other venues elsewhere in the city.
“The identification system can also help to ensure that under-age people are not permitted entry as has repeatedly happened at the Bulldog.
“The committee decided that they would reduce the hours to 2am with a 3am closing time, suspend the licence from midnight for a four-week period and not apply the condition relating to the ID system.”
Chief Superintendent Kemp added: “It is the responsibility of the licensee to ensure the safety of those attending his premises but, despite warnings from us, he persistently failed to do so.
“It is therefore incumbent on us and the licensing committee to step in and ensure that this situation changes because we cannot tolerate somewhere directly linked to persistent reports of sexual assaults on women, where people are allowed to get so drunk that they are unable to look after themselves and where children are allowed to enter and drink too.
“I do not believe that these limited conditions, which fall well short of what was requested, adequately support us in reducing this clear risk to public safety and I am disappointed about that.
“So many alarming incidents have taken place at the Bulldog – including a very serious sexual assault of a 13-year-old girl after she was ejected from the premises just hours after the pub failed a police-led under-age test purchase operation – mean in our view that more impactive changes than those stipulated are needed.
“When comparing the size of this pub to other venues in the city, the number of offences is unacceptably disproportionate.
“Under the circumstances, and following discussions with colleagues, I have decided that the right course of action is for Sussex Police to take the unusual step of appealing this decision to the magistrates’ court.”