Brighton seafront theatre wants bar licence made permanent

The operators of a new theatre venue have long-term plans to keep it going with a bar.

Otherplace Productions’ new venture Electric Arcade, a theatre and cabaret venue on the beach by the zip wire, run by Brighton Zip, survived a “challenging” summer season.

Now the company, which also runs the Brighton Fringe venue the Warren, wants a permanent licence to allow alcohol sales until midnight daily at the venue in Madeira Drive.

A licensing panel of three councillors is due to discuss the proposals at a “virtual” meeting next Monday (30 November).

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Both Sussex Police and Brighton and Hove City Council have objected to the plans because Madeira Drive is in a busy area where council policy restricts new licences to try to reduce public nuisance and alcohol-related crime.

Sussex Police licensing inspector Rob Lovell, whose name was redacted in the panel’s papers, said that the venue had not experienced “normal business” this summer and he was concerned about the negative impact of another licensed business in the area.

He said: “Although the applicant has offered a good number of conditions following pre-consulting, Sussex Police still has concerns of a new premises licence in this location permanently.

“There is no proposed conditions for no vertical drinking and no conditions offering substantial food, therefore allowing this premises to operate as a pub or even as a night club.”

Conditions added to the temporary licence in May – to limit alcohol sales to within two hours of a performance and limit entry after 9.30pm to ticket holders only – were missing from the new application.

Inspector Lovell said that these conditions had ensured that the venue was theatre-led rather than a pub.

A senior licensing officer, whose details are also redacted in the panel papers, was equally concerned at the loss of the two conditions.

The anonymous official’s statement said: “We acknowledge that the applicant aims to operate an ‘arts-led’ premises and has included positive proposals on how they will manage potential risks … and these mirror and sometimes build on the conditions attached to the previous time-limited licence.

“However, we are concerned that two of the conditions that were put on at the licensing panel in May 2020 have not been included in the operating schedule, which gave robust control measures in ensuring a non-alcohol led premises.

“These were included as the panel felt at that time that there were insufficient safeguards in terms of conditions given the challenging nature of the area.”

In its application, Otherplace Productions said that Electric Arcade was designed as two fringe-style 50-seat performance and rehearsal spaces as well as a large cabaret bar-style performance space.

The company said that it wanted to offer a “responsible” food and drink offering and attract a wide range of people.

A sample weekend programme included morning shows and workshops to attract young families, as well as matinee and tea-time shows for the same group.

Evening shows proposed include theatre and cabaret.

Despite not mentioning the ticket and seating requirements for alcohol sale, the application stated that the company planned to “deploy soft and hard measures” to reduce the impact on the area.

It said: “Strict entry conditions will be maintained at all times and a stringent policy to prevent entry and sales to persons showing intoxication.

“The style of the bar will encourage seated drinking and volume levels in the cabaret bar area, outside of performance times, will be maintained to a conversational level at all times.

“This will develop and encourage a ‘café culture’ environment and will always stand in contrast to the night club-style premises in the local area.”

The application document said that during a “difficult” summer season, other businesses note an improvement in the area due to the increased and diverse nature of the people visiting the venue.

The “virtual meeting of the licensing panel is due to be held from 10am on Monday 30 November and be webcast on the council website.

  1. saveHove Reply

    Use of premises can change at any time within a catch all use class – which is why so many failing shops seek to convert to café/restaurant use and/or to also sell alcohol, for instance.

    A permission creates a precedent too.

    However honourable this application may or may not be, potential for a dishonourable future has to be anticipated & prevented.

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