‘Community’ seafront venue slammed for £750 exclusive membership fee

Posted On 28 Apr 2021 at 9:10 am

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.”

  1. Christopher Hawtree Reply

    One must always be suspicious when a builder uses the word “community”, especially as many times as this one has done. One recalls that – twenty years ago – the exponents of the new building near the Palace Pier roundabout said that it would be for “high-class dining”. There was no demand for that and it is now a Harvester which sells the same food at every branch. I suspect that most people will go to the Hove bar for a glass of beer or wine.

  2. Nathan Adler Reply

    A residents card? Many local companies offer them for free, (like the Palace Pier), so locals can get discounts etc. Charging £750 is an awful idea and one that will not foster any support amongst the locals.

  3. Emma Reply

    The whole concept seems to lack an understanding of the values and needs of the local community. The concept seems a bit elitist and not very high quality either. If I want a private members club with plenty of perks and facilities I can go to Shoreditch House, this place should be for everyone it is right on the beach front, what a kick in the teeth for those who supported their plans when they faced some resistance. I won’t be going there, there are better places to eat and drink in the city

  4. Harry Reply

    It’s a good idea. 750 is fine for a members club. I pay double that for clubs in London. Not everything can be free to people on low incomes, on benefits, affordable housing etc. I can’t afford a rolls Royce but don’t complain I only have a bmw. That’s life. It’s a business not a charity. Good luck to him. See you there for fizz in June.

  5. Caroline Reply

    I am saddened by this elitism but am not surprised. It’s never been about locals but more about money form the outset .
    The proposed expansion to the nearly public toilet block ( to make a sup and yoga centre) and the tennis club on the council courts is also very worrying and completely WRONG. Again locals including children won’t be able to use the toilets or play sports. There are no other toilets anywhere on the immediate area.
    I hope the council have more clout this time to stop this takeover of public facilities to make more profit for Luke!

  6. Hove Guy Reply

    Are there really brainless mugs around willimg to throw away £750 on such a load of nonsense as this? It is not even membership of some exclusive club, but some idiotic idea that they will get prioriy booking for events, which are probably no different from all the other gigs around the city. It is not even worth 20p. And are people really gong to be bothered to go out there for these events, especially throughout the winter, anyway? This is Hove, not central London. It is hard to believe that it is serious, and not some patheic joke.

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