A Brighton seafront venue agreed to stop serving alcohol earlier than it had planned if it could have a licence with conditions that were more relaxed than previously.
The Brighton Zip, in Madeira Drive, had asked to be allowed to serve drinks until 11pm during the summer months but the owner, Jeff Sanders, said that he could close earlier.
Mr Sanders said, however, that he needed a licence with “café” conditions rather than “restaurant” conditions – meaning that food should be available but people could drink without having to order food.
He said that although food and drink were “ancillary”, the zipwire wouldn’t be financially viable without them – and the business had already suffered significantly as a result of the coronavirus pandemic restrictions.
Mr Sanders was applying for a licence only because the zipwire operator, Happyvale, went into liquidation in July and a new company, Madeira Leisure, took over.
The licence was not transferred from one company to the other within the time limit allowed by law because a member of staff was off with long covid, Mr Sanders said.
When he applied for a new premises licence, Sussex Police and Brighton and Hove City Council licensing officials objected.
They said that the zipwire was in a busy area of Brighton and Hove which had been designated a “cumulative impact zone” where drink-related crime and disorder caused problems.
They also said that the venue previously operated with “restaurant” conditions attached to its licence but now wanted the more relaxed “café” conditions.
And at a council licensing panel yesterday (Thursday 2 December), it was claimed that the proposed 11pm closing time could lead to people “preloading” before drinking more in nearby late-night venues. This could add to drink-related crime and disorder.
There were also concerns that the proposed licence conditions could prove attractive to stag and hen parties.
Hannah Staplehurst, from Sussex Police, told the licensing panel hearing that the force would not have opposed an application for “restaurant” conditions, with customers required to have a “substantial meal” if ordering alcohol.
She also asked councillors to limit the hours to 10pm if they granted a licence for the venue, adding: “By having (restaurant) conditions, it reduces the risk of people becoming intoxicated as they are eating a substantial meal with their drinks.
“The previous premises licence also only allowed alcohol until 9pm. This current application requests alcohol for an additional two hours with café conditions which would allow persons to drink alcohol without food until 11pm in the cumulative impact zone.
“Sussex Police are concerned people will visit these premises and head to other venues after consuming alcohol at the zipwire without consuming food.”
She said that intoxicated people were also at risk from crime, adding that over the last weekend of November there was a sexual assault, robbery and violence against the person in the area immediately east of the Palace Pier.
A photograph of the bar submitted by Sussex Police provoked comment and questions, with Independent councillor Kate Knight asking if it had been cropped.
Brighton Zip’s solicitor Niall McCann said that the photo showing beer pumps and spirits bottles but excluded an expensive Italian coffee machine, tea-making equipment and the kitchen.
Mr McCann said that the venue had experienced no problems with its temporary licences covering four weekends in October and November – and the last three operated on café conditions.
He said: “There is demand from our clientele to have the odd glass of wine or a beer without food.
“The premises is open throughout the day. It is popular with people taking their children to the zip wire – and after, the children have some chips and the parents want a glass of wine or a beer.
“It’s popular with dog walkers who like to sit with a friend and have the odd glass of wine. Not all of them want to have food.”
Mr Sanders said that more people from the area were using the café year-round – and they want a different offer to tourists.
He said: “Before the revamp, it was very ‘kiss me quick’, fish and chips and seasonal holidaymakers, that was the aim.
“With the pandemic and Madeira Drive pedestrianised, people rediscovered the beach and realised they don’t just need to come down in the winter when they get the beach back.
“We changed our offer as people from Kemp Town discovered our offer. They don’t want fish and chips and candy floss. We’ve got Redroaster coffee. We changed everything to reflect our customers.”
Mr McCann said that the Brighton Zip would be willing to give up the extra hour applied for and close the bar at 10pm.
Labour councillor Jackie O’Quinn, who chaired the licensing panel, said: “We want to see local businesses thriving – and the zip wire does offer something that is very attractive to locals and people coming into town.
“We don’t want to do you down. We want to make sure that people are safe in the city. And that is the prime consideration of the licensing panel and licensing committee – to not put people in danger. Which is why we would not be happy about a later licence.”
The licensing panel retired to make its decision which should be published within five working days.