Police oppose late licence for Synergy Centre in West Street, Brighton

Posted On 23 Jan 2016 at 7:04 pm
By Roz Scott

Residents of Brighton and Hove have 26 days until Tuesday 16 February to express their views about the late licence application from the Synergy Centre in West Street.

The centre has met with some resistance from the Sussex Police licensing team who view the Synergy Centre as a live music venue. The Synergy Centre sees itself as a multimedia arts centre doing charitable work.

Synergy Centre director Steve Peake said: “While some elements of Synergy’s application look like a live music venue, other elements look like a poetry salon, or a dance studio, or a youth club, or a conference centre, or a homeless drop-in centre or a youth skills-raising facility, etc.

“The Synergy Centre is one of a kind. There is nowhere like it in the whole country and therefore we do not fit easily on to the matrix to which the police are so rigidly attached.”

Synergy Centre West Street Brighton

The vision of the Synergy centre is to use creative, multimedia events at the weekends to subsidise work midweek with disadvantaged groups including the unemployed, homeless people, those with mental health problems and substance misuse issues.

Recently the centre has hosted St Mungo’s homeless charity launch for practitioners, courses run by Free University Brighton, Soulfood provided food to raise money for Mothers Uncovered, the centre is a depot for supplies going to refugees in Calais, every Monday the Forro Family dance, the centre is developing a partnership with the National Citizenship Service at Albion in the Community and events for young people include DV8, Access to Music and the Band Project.

Mr Peake said: “The centre aims to reduce anti-social behaviour by tackling the underlying behaviour which is what the community strategy calls for.

“It will deliver a social benefit and conduct educational programmes which will promote sustainable and considerate lifestyles.”

In the strategy document Mr Peake writes: “Another key aim of the Synergy Centre is to act as a hub and incubator for emerging talent within Brighton’s creative and cultural industries.”

He is working in partnership with the alcohol and substance misuse sector and is committed to the “challenge 25” policy to ask 18 to 25-year-olds for identification.

Caroline Lucas

Caroline Lucas

A licence is needed to sell alcohol at any time, to sell refreshments including soft and hot drinks after 11pm and to provide entertainment after 11pm.

Mr Peake argues that Brighton lacks a medium-sized live music venue which prevents many bands from visiting the city and boosting the economy.

The Synergy Centre is bigger than Concorde 2 and smaller than the Brighton Centre with a capacity of 800 to 1,000 people.

He says the focus of the centre is the activities, the sale of alcohol is incidental and secondary like at a theatre. An example is Style which is a club night for young people aged 14-17 with unlimited soft drinks.

Sussex Police has concerns about another live music venue in West Street. They operate a policy of containment and are concerned about another late-night entertainment venue in the area which is in a “cumulative impact zone”. The previous licence was surrendered when the occupiers had to leave.

The police were asked if they accepted that the culture and demographics of an audience were relevant when risk-assessing the likelihood of the audience causing crime and disorder.

Andy Freeman, from the Sussex Police press office, said: “The decision about the licence is made by the Brighton and Hove City Council’s Licensing Committee, not the police.

“The other issues you have raised are being considered as part of Sussex Police’s formal response to the application, which will be submitted within the 28-day consultation period.

“We will not be commenting further in advance of the meeting of the Licensing Committee.”

DV8 - young musicians from DV8

Young musicians from DV8

Brighton Pavilion MP Caroline Lucas said: “I’m impressed by Synergy’s aim of offering affordable creative space to organisations working towards a socially inclusive and environmentally friendly society.

“I have written to Brighton and Hove police commander Nev Kemp and I hope that any police concerns about the application can be resolved during this consultation process.”

Brighton and Hove City Council’s licencing policy which is in the process of being reviewed states that: “It will support diversity of premises: ensure that there is a mix of the different types of licensed premises and attract a more diverse range of customers from different age groups, different communities and with different attitudes to alcohol consumption. It gives potential for positively changing the ambience of the city or an area of it.”

You can sign the online petition which has attracted more than 1,900 signatures in support of the Synergy Centre here, hosted by change.org. You can write to Sussex Police and Brighton and Hove Council Licensing Committee to express your views before Tuesday 16 February when the consultation closes.

  1. tone__ Reply

    Be radical, be alcohol free.
    Everyone will still have great time.

  2. Alex Reply

    No need for alcoho, it sometimes attracts the wrong vibe, wishing you all the very best, alcohol fee

  3. Gerald Wiley Reply

    Well I can see Caroline fully supporting the Synergy Centre as they both have a lot in common with, according to their twitter feed, support for Caroline Lucas; Greenpeace; Jeremy Corbyn; and The Women’s Equality Party amongst many others.

    And I agree with @tone, that it would be really positive to have an alcohol free venue in West Street to provide a real alternative to all other drinking establishments – but I imagine they would need profits from the alcohol sales to make the business venture work.

    I would also think that Caroline would really support such an initiative after she was so vocal about banning the Coca Cola truck coming into Brighton because it would encourage people to drink ‘evil’ sugar and supports introduction of a ‘sugar tax’, and AFAIK alcohol is much more dangerous than sugar…especially amongst those, typically, inhabiting West Street on a Saturday night.

    Looking at Steve Peake’s online CV it seems that there was another Synergy Centre in Camberwell but that seems to have closed – what happened here? http://www.stevepeake.org.uk/cv/ provides some interesting background.

  4. Steve Peake Reply

    Hello everyone,

    sadly, it’s not going to be possible to sustain the business model without selling some alcohol. A building that size costs money to run, to say nothing of paying staff and any kind of finance or rent on the building.

    Our central point is that while some people can get difficult after drinking, our audiences are over-whelmingly peaceful and chilled. Many, many people can have a few beers or glasses of wine without getting drunk or anti-social. It’s important we don’t punish the peaceful majority for the behaviour of a few, nor limit the development of a healthier night time vibe just because the orthodoxy on West St is a bit unhealthy at times.

    Our model is also to use the proceeds from weekend events, and associated bar sales, to cross subsidise mid-week charitable activity. We’re already doing good work with the homeless community and wish to expand this area as the public sector contracts due to the cuts.

    The Camberwell Centre was a huge success – we had funding and support from the local authority, police and youth offending team, but the building we were renting was sold and we had to move out. We’re really hoping we can build on the success of Camberwell down in Brighton.


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