Police and council oppose Brighton theatre’s licence application

A Brighton theatre company has applied for a six-month drinks licence but faces opposition from the police and council licensing officials.

Otherplace Productions wants to open a theatre and cabaret venue on the beach by the Brighton Zip zipwire.

The company, which runs the Warren – a pop-up venue – during the Brighton Fringe, had hoped to start the licence from last Friday (1 May).

But the Fringe has been cancelled and the coronavirus lockdown and social distancing rules have been blamed for a delay in setting up a licensing panel to decide the application.

Otherplace wants to set up a venue called the Electric Arcade with two auditoriums designed to look like an “old-school arcade” with TV monitors.

The two studios – called the Gaeity and the Pit – would have 50 seats each and offer a wide range of family-friendly and age-restricted shows.

The coronavirus crisis means that the proposed venue looks unlikely to open this summer but councillors are still being asked to decide whether to grant Otherplace a licence.

If they do, the premises would stay open until shortly after midnight.

In its application, the company said: “There has been a steady decline in Brighton and Hove’s rich history of venues above pubs or small-scale theatre spaces, particularly outside of the Brighton Fringe, which is able to house theatre.

“Many have closed down or turned into non-theatrical venues (for instance only able to house comedy or similar). As examples, the Nightingale Theatre, the Dukebox Theatre, and the Emporium Theatre have all ceased operating in the recent past.

“The Electric Arcade will allow us to carry on providing a platform for local performers and national profile acts after the Brighton Fringe has finished, enabling the audiences of Brighton to see work throughout the summer and into autumn, helping develop the next generation of audiences, performers and arts practitioners as we have done before, converting the interest shown during the Fringe into something longer-lasting.”

Otherplace said that it started at the Marlborough Theatre in 2005 before moving to Upstairs at Three and Ten in 2008. The company also started the Warren in 2012.

It plans to offer options such as food and a show, with a link to food provided by Brighton Zip.

Brighton and Hove City Council licensing department objects to the application because the venue would be in the central “cumulative impact zone” where few new licences are granted.

The council said that it was not clear whether the bar would be open to the public, like a pub, rather than just available to theatre-goers, which would be acceptable.

The council also wanted to know whether the business would operate as a bar “off season”, which would be against licensing policy.

Sussex Police also objected to the application, saying that the proposed venue would be in the Queen’s Park electoral ward which was the third worst out of 21 for violent offences.

Inspector Rob Lovell said: “Due to the crime and disorder in the location of this proposed premises, Sussex Police operate a standalone night-time operation each weekend and at other various peak times throughout the year.

“This involves dedicated police resources patrolling the main night economy area to free up our normal night duty officers so they can manage the rest of the city and the demands it has on our service.

“Having a visible police presence in the area, especially during the weekend evenings, goes some way to assist in reducing criminal incidents occurring, but unfortunately does not stop them in their entirety.”

The application is due to be decided by a council licensing panel on Monday (11 May), with the “virtual” meeting expected to be webcast from 10am. The panel will be made up of three Labour councillors – Jackie O’Quinn, Carmen Appich and Tracey Hill.

  1. Christopher Hawtree Reply

    What on earth is an “old-school arcade”? Such meaningless language must have raised Licensing’s suspicions.

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