Brighton night club owner seeks licence for new premises

A small café and bar area turned out to be the most controversial part of a new licence for the Haunt.

The former entrance to Days restaurant in East Street has permission to be converted into a coffee bar but needs a licence for some alcohol sales as part of a move for the music venue and night club.

Owner Matthew Dimmock told a Brighton and Hove City Council licensing panel that he did not really want the former cinema foyer space.

However, he decided to use it as he would be paying for it and there were too many boarded up premises in East Street.

The panel, consisting of councillors Jackie O’Quinn, Lizzie Deane and Lee Wares, heard that the Haunt would not be accessed from East Street but a separate door in Pool Valley, next to where it is currently based.

In the original application the bar area was included in the 4am closing licence for the night club venue.

After hearing concerns Mr Dimmock agreed to a condition that the separate bar would be cleared and closed by 11pm.

He also agreed to sell food such as nachos and pizza – and to limit the capacity of the area to no more than 40 people.

Mr Dimmock told the panel, which was sitting at Hove Town Hall, that he did not want to move but the Grosvenor Casino wanted to take over his current venue and the former restaurant was his best option.

Last year he was granted a licence to run a music venue and night club from the former Dirty Blonde restaurant and bar in East Street.

The main venue would be a mixed arts venue with seating for 350 – as a theatre – and would operate as rehearsal studios.

Regency ward councillor Tom Druitt said that he was concerned that the larger space for the main venue would put it out of the reach of up-and-coming bands.

Mr Dimmock said that the venue could work for rising stars at all levels.

He used the band Bastille as an example of a group that had played at the Concorde 2 then larger venues in Bexhill and Portsmouth before returning to The Dome six years on.

He spoke about his hope of also using the venue as a theatre. He said: “We’ve specifically designed this so we have a movable size of room. We can house shows from 150 upwards.

“There is a limit to seated theatre in Brighton. ATG (Ambassador Theatre Group) shows go into the Theatre Royal. There is little room for independent stuff to come in at a decent capacity.

“When they do they’re sitting in churches which are amazing buildings but they’re not built for that.”

Neighbours were represented by Debbie Gibson-Leigh, chair of the Brighton Old Town Local Action Team and Clarendon Mansions resident.

She told the panel that the noise and anti-social behaviour issues in the area came about after changes to the licensing laws in 2005.

Many of the people living in the area have been there for 20 years or more.

Noise is the biggest concern for neighbours, particularly the noise from early morning rubbish collection and bottle disposal.

With the new venue, rubbish would be collected from Pool Valley rather than Brill’s Lane, taking it away from where most people live.

Mr Dimmock also committed to making sure rubbish was collected between 9am and 10pm.

To ease Sussex Police and council licensing officers’ concerns about existing licences, Mr Dimmock’s solicitor Patrick Whur offered to surrender them to the council.

Should the licensing panel agree to grant him a new licence, then the current Haunt venue and Dirty Blonde could not operate as late-night venues.

The panel retired to make its decision which is due to be sent out in five working days.

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