A pub company boss spoke out about a private club being turned into a rival pub in Rottingdean at a licensing panel hearing today (Wednesday 22 July).
Leo Day criticised plans to convert the Rottingdean Lounge, also known locally as the Rottingdean Club, in High Street, from a private members’ club into a public house.
Mr Day, who runs the Golden Lion Group, said that people were concerned about adding another pub to Rottingdean where there were already a “considerable number” of drinking venues.
He opposed an application to vary the licence of the Rottingdean Lounge to remove the conditions relating to membership.
Mr Day, 39, whose company operates the Plough, just yards away in Vicarage Lane, said: “Primarily, people look to vary a licence to change the operation, to make the business financially viable.
“As far as I am concerned, the people in there now bought it as a members-only club.
“I assumed they intended to operate it as a members’ club and now want to change it to something less regulated.”
He urged the Brighton and Hove City Council licensing panel to turn down the application, saying it was well run now but the owners could move on and it might not be well run.
He said that the proposed pub licence conditions were “loose” because there was no requirement to serve food with drinks.
Labour councillor Jackie O’Quinn, who chaired the “virtual” licensing panel hearing, questioned the suggestion.
Councillor O’Quinn said that, if the application were to be approved, Sussex Police would want the licence to include conditions relating to security cameras, which are already in place, and qualified door staff.
Philip Sherrington, 39, a director of Carter-Christian Limited, the applicant, said that when the company bought the club in 2017, the directors thought that they were buying a pub.
After opening up with an “everyone welcome” sign, Mr Sherrington said that he received a call the next day to say that it was against the venue’s conditions.
For the past three years, the club had held special events, licensed using temporary events notices, enabling the club to admit the public.
He said that there had been no problems, no noise complaints and no visits from the authorities afterwards.
Mr Sherrington said: “We’re not changing too much. We’re just trying to reflect the fact that over the last three years, our membership base has changed.
“The audience we have today is the audience we want. We just don’t expect people to pay for it.”
The membership had risen from 500 to 1,000 in the past three years, he said, but members’ friends could visit only a limited number of times.
Mr Sherrington said that the Rottingdean Lounge was a drink-led business which had a kitchen serving food every day before the covid-19 coronavirus lockdown.
The kitchen was shut because of social distancing rules but a “substantial” lunch menu was offered through the nearby Windmill bakery.
Councillor O’Quinn said: “You’re not operating as a pub at the moment but it seems like a natural move.”
The panel retired to make its decision which is due to be made public within five working days.