A seafront chip shop owner wants a licence to sell takeaway drinks as well as to serve beer and wine with a fish supper.
Ali Akbar, owner of the Best Fish and Chips, in King’s Road, Brighton, wants to alcohol on the menu for seated customers in the restaurant area of his shop until 10pm.
He also wants an “off sales” licence until 2am and his application was considered today (Friday 20 November) at a Brighton and Hove City Council licensing panel.
The three-member panel held a “virtual” hearing and were told that Mr Akbar had owned the shop for more than 20 years.
He knew the area well, not least as a former pupil at nearby Middle Street Primary School.
The panel was told that his business had a long-standing late-night refreshment licence, offering takeaway food until 3am Monday to Friday and 4am on a Saturday and Sunday.
Sussex Police and the council licensing department opposed Mr Akbar’s plans for off-sales until 2am daily.
They said that King’s Road was in an area designated by the council as a “cumulative impact zone” where there are limits on new off-licences, pubs and clubs to reduce crime and disorder.
Police licensing officer Mark Thorogood said that before the coronavirus pandemic all robberies in the area and 82 per cent of violent crimes were linked with alcohol.
Even during the spring and autumn lockdowns, the seafront was at the heart of a regular police operation, known as Op Marble, dealing with the fallout from the night-time economy.
Mr Thorogood said that there was a risk of people taking alcohol from the premises to drink on the beach.
He said: “Alcohol alters judgment and perception and can lead to people taking risks they would not normally consider.
“It can make them vulnerable and put them at risk from harm. It can make them feel invincible and able to take anyone on.
“All of these risks impact not only on the individual but on the emergency and voluntary services that operate within the city.”
The voluntary services include the Beach Patrol, Street Pastors and Safe Space who operate all year round, helping people who are drunk or otherwise disorientated and sometimes separated from their friends.
Mr Thorogood said that the force was not confident that Mr Akbar fully understood the impact of alcohol on the police and other services.
In a letter to the council, Mr Akbar said that his business was no different from the bars operating in the Shelter Hall.
But Mr Thorogood said that the Shelter Hall had “on sales” only until 11.30pm – and restaurant conditions, meaning that alcohol was served with a main meal only.
Mr Akbar told the pane that there were at least four closed licensed businesses in the area.
He mentioned the Paradox and Baltic night clubs, in West Street, and the Globe pub in Middle Street.
He said: “If you put all the closed business into one ball, that’s maybe 1,000 people who might turn up and drink. They’re not operating.
“So you’ve got a little fish and chip shop like myself. I want to add ‘on sales’ when you order drinks with your meal like you would at Harry Ramsden.”
Mr Akbar said that the closures allowed room for a “little business” like his. As well as selling a few popular beers and wines, he also wanted to sell confectionary, crisps, sticks of rock, tourist souvenirs and beach items.
He said that he appreciated the police position that the premises licences were still in place but the Paradox conversion into a five-star hotel was different to a night club.
However, Mr Thorogood said that it was not a “one in, one out” policy, with crime figures going up in the centre of Brighton, even during the lockdown.
Labour councillor Jackie O’Quinn said that just because the licences were not used now, it did not mean that they would not be used in the future.
She said that many people came to enjoy the nightlife in Brighton from other places, such as Crawley, and after their night out would want something to eat before catching the first train home.
Councillor O’Quinn said: “Undoubtedly that area is very heavily congregated. There are a lot of people on the lower promenade and West Street.
“It’s that problem of adding alcohol into the mix. We get some of our worst fights outside takeaways because people are drunk. Not necessarily in your shop but outside where they fight.”
The panel retired to make its decision which should be made public within five working days.
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