A new seafront bar which branded itself a community venue when seeking planning permission has angered locals with the launch of an exclusive £750 membership.
Venture capitalist Luke Davis has transformed the former View nightclub and renamed it Rockwater.
He launched public attacks on neighbours who objected to a 3am alcohol licence, issuing press releases and starting petitions saying they were “actively working against the community of Hove”.
A roof extension was approved despite planning officers recommending refusal, with councillors specifically citing the venue’s public relations campaign.
However, the venue has now experienced a backlash after announcing its Rockwater Residence membership scheme.
Mr Davis insists that non-members won’t be excluded, and that the £750 annual fee simply allows members to have priority when booking tickets for special events.
But locals say it appears the venue wants to introduce a two-tier system, with vetted members able to access events on the new roof terrace and everyone else relegated elsewhere.
The booking form asks prospective members what they do for a living, and what they will “bring to the party”.
Some say that bookings they’ve had have even been cancelled to make way for the special membership events.
One, Pippa Hodge, said on Rockwater’s Facebook page: “It is an elitist aspect that wasn’t expected, based on your early and persuasive campaign that this was a place ‘for the people’.
“What you’re morphing it into is a two-tiered system whereby the majority can use it as a standard venue but a select minority (providing they have a suitable daytime occupation and bring something to the party) will get to have first dibs on the events that will be reduced in number by virtue of taking place on the top deck/first class area.
“People haven’t misunderstood, they are responding to the crack that has appeared in the community platform you used to actualise your plans.”
One, Lake Lex, said: “”For what it’s worth, I like the idea of Rockwater. I’d be happy to support it usually but this does scream a bit of elitism.
“Sure, you have bills to pay. Who doesn’t? But the fee is astronomical. Could one of your staff afford that on minimum wage? As a working single parent, I certainly can’t.
“Which people are you looking for to have a residence pass? Because I know very few couples who can pay £1,500 just so that they can book a table somewhere or get first choice on gig tickets.
“Just say it’s an exclusive club for rich people. I’d have much more respect for that. Just say you want to schmooze rich sponsors and stop pretending it’s got anything to do with residents.
“It’s a nice venue, people will want to go but you seem to be losing locals by the minute with this, frankly, ham fisted PR attempt.”
Posting on its Facebook page yesterday, Rockwater said people were misunderstanding what the membership scheme is and said they had been “trolled” as a result.
It said: “We have been saddened by some of the negative responses to Rockwater Residence, particularly the level of trolling and personal abuse some of our team received over the last few days, which can never be justified.
“We recognise there has been considerable misunderstanding about what Residence is and how it affects everyone more generally and we would like to help clarify that for our community.
“Firstly, Rockwater will never be an exclusive members’ club. The Residence operates as an optional extra, for those locals who wish to purchase it, and will not affect anyone’s ability to book a table, a private party, or enjoy any of the areas Rockwater has to offer.
“The key benefit of the Residence is to provide access to concerts and gigs with international recording artists, world class comedians and other specific events on a priority basis.
“We cannot put these high-profile experiences together without an events budget, which comes from the implementation of a fee.”
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