Private members’ club Soho House has been granted a late-night drinks licence for its new seafront venue – referred to both as the Brighton Beach House and the Little Beach House.
But the club will have to stop serving alcohol earlier than planned – at 1am instead of 1.45am – with customers due to leave the premises in Madeira Drive by 2am.
The decision – made by a Brighton and Hove City Council licensing panel after a six-hour hearing – was sent in writing to the premises’ owner Soho House UK Limited.
The company was granted a licence for three venues – all at The Terraces in Madeira Drive – under the names of Soho House, Soho Works and The Kiosk.
Only the members’ club – Soho House – can stay open past midnight, except on Sundays when it will have to close at midnight.
The Kiosk, a restaurant open to the public, will be licensed from 10am to midnight, and Soho Works, a campus-style work space, from 8am to 10pm.
The council, which has restrictive licensing policies covering the busy centre of Brighton, said that the licence would lapse if Soho House sold the premises.
When Soho House applied for a licence, the council received objections from a couple of residents, Sussex Police, the Kingscliffe Society and the council’s licensing team.
The police were concerned about the possibility of crowds leaving the venue in the early hours, especially at weekends when the centre of Brighton could already be especially busy.
The members’ club alone could hold up to 500 people, the police said, in an area where there were typically high levels of drink-related crime and disorder.
Officers patrolled “the main night-time economy area”, the police said, adding: “A visible police presence in the area goes some way to assist in reducing criminal incidents occurring but unfortunately does not stop them in their entirety.
“Most incidents … have an element of alcohol linked to them. This is a mix of persons becoming drunk and disorderly, violent and a high number of incidents involve persons who have become a victim of crime due to their own vulnerability after consuming alcohol.
“Staff at venues and from emergency services are far too often also at the end of a drunk person’s aggression.”
When the council’s licensing panel met, on Monday 14 March, Soho House’s lawyer Lana Tricker said that the venue was not a night club or a stop-off point for a pub crawl.
It was, she said, a destination in its own right for members from the film, media and creative industries.
She said that Soho House operated in comparably busy areas in other cities, including Soho and Shoreditch, with 3am licences. And she added: “Soho House is not a night club environment. It doesn’t promote overcrowded areas.
“We have a proven track record of being able to regulate the consumption of alcohol with members. We do not have a history or reputation for drunkenness or irresponsible behaviour.”
Trevor Scoble, from the Kingscliffe Society, was concerned that Soho House might use a 10-metre gap between the venue’s buildings for seating.
The area was required to be kept clear as a condition of the planning permission for the premises.
And now, one of the conditions of the premises licence is that no alcohol be sold or consumed in the gap to keep it “free from visual obstruction”.
The licensing panel consisted of three councillors – Lizzie Deane, Jackie O’Quinn and Carol Theobald.
The panel’s decision letter said: “There were exceptional circumstances relating to this application. Foremost it was a member-only operation with no access to the public. Membership was hard to obtain and carefully managed, and guests were strictly controlled.
“The panel did not believe it would be in any way akin to a crowded public house and thus there was no need to condition no vertical drinking (standing at the bar).
“However, the panel wishes to stress to the applicants the importance of ensuring that the bar area does not become congested.”
Soho House previously said that it planned to open the new venue at the end of this month, without stating a date.