Licensing wrangle bubbles up as historic Brighton venue prepares to reopen

Police and council licensing officers have objected to a drinks licence for a new café and bar in New Road, Brighton, outside the Pavilion Theatre, now rebranded as the Dome Studio Theatre.

The theatre, which is being restored along with the Corn Exchange, wants to be able to serve up more than 70 people outside the premises as well those in the inside bar until midnight every day.

The application signals an end to more than five years of work, hampered by a key contractor going bust, the coronavirus pandemic and the unearthing of a burial ground at the site.

The premises – described in an official report as the Brighton Dome Café and Restaurant – are owned by Brighton and Hove City Council.

But the licence application has been submitted by the proposed operator, Lucky Bean Ltd, which owns Redroaster, in St James’s Street, Brighton.

The objections mean that a council licensing panel – made up of three councillors – will be asked to decide the matter at a hearing next week.

A report to the licensing panel said: “Twenty representations were received, two opposing and 18 in support.

“The two opposing were received from Sussex Police and the licensing authority (the council) and the 18 supporting were received from local residents and local businesses.

“Representations received had concerns relating to (the) prevention of crime and disorder, cumulative impact, public safety, prevention of public nuisance and protection of children from harm.”

Inspector Michelle Palmer-Harris, from Sussex Police, said that the area had a significant number of licensed premises already and high crime rates, with much of the crime – and many of the ambulance callouts – drink-related.

She said: “As the evening goes on, more and more people would be attending to consume alcohol on its own, resulting in the venue operating more as a bar.

“With alcohol-related crime and disorder within the locality, this is a concern to us.”

She said that in the past year Sussex Police had dealt with more than 800 incidents within 300 yards of the proposed venue including

  • 370 violent crimes
  • 281 incidents of anti-social behaviour
  • 117 cases of criminal damage
  • 112 public order offences

Inspector Palmer-Harris said: “Although not all of these are occurring within current premises within the locality … a high number of incidents dealt with by police are alcohol-related within this area.

“By increasing the availability of alcohol, we believe this could further add to these issues. Reducing (the proposed) hours or imposing the need to eat will assist with mitigating this risk.”

Lucky Bean submitted a brochure with its application, highlighting directors Diana and Mike Palmer’s extensive experience working for Whitbread and restaurant and bar company Mitchells and Butlers respectively.

In the brochure, Lucky Bean said: “We are a community-focused, local family-owned and operated company, a Brighton independent for the last 22 years.

“We provide unique and fascinating and creative hospitality partnerships for events and exhibitions. We provide real-world experience and will work alongside the Dome to help to improve its sustainability.”

A supporting letter from the Brighton Dome and Brighton Festival, with details redacted by the council, said that Lucky Bean had been chosen for its commitment to “delivering a quality, well-run operation”.

The letter said: “The refurbishment of the historic Corn Exchange and Studio Theatre is coming into its final stages and the new catering offer planned to be operated by Lucky Bean Ltd will play a significant role in welcoming people back to these public spaces.

“The restaurant is a crucial part of our new visitor experience and central to an ongoing commercial strategy that seeks to secure the long-term future of these historic venues for continued public use.”

A neighbouring business sent a supporting letter although the council has redacted its name and address. It said: “It’s been a building site for so long and we would love to see it busy and open later.

“I believe the more business we have in New Road that open into the evening will act as a deterrent to unwanted behaviour of the street drinkers by self-policing with more people using businesses in the area, therefore changing the nature of the street somewhat.”

The location of the venue, in the busy centre of Brighton, is in an area where new licence applications tend to be refused unless there are “exceptional circumstances”.

Inspector Palmer-Harris added: “The applicant has not offered any additional crime prevention conditions such as ‘SIA security’ on the door and a security mobile support unit nor joining the Brighton and Hove Business Crime Reduction Partnership (BCRP).”

She said that previous applications to run “café-style” operations in the area had been granted when they complied with the council’s licensing policies – unlike the Lucky Bean application.

And she added: “We do not believe that this application should be treated any differently to previous ones granted – and nor do we believe that exceptional circumstances have been given to depart from the policy.”

The council licensing panel hearing is due to start at 10am next Monday (5 December) and is scheduled to be webcast on the council’s website.

  1. Robert Pattinson Reply

    Owned by the council but they are objecting to a license. If the Police got out of vehicles crime would go down. Plus the real reason alcohol is the problem is the corner shops selling around the clock. Venues are usually well run with security. Corner shops are not. Make them stop selling alcohol at 11pm.

    • Chris Reply

      And that is exactly what happened to corner shops in Madrid, years ago. An instant reduction in late night disorder.

  2. Mark Reply

    Have you ever walked past the theatre royal and felt safe? No! it’s a hangout for the homeless/unemployed drunks and druggy and not a police officer in site. Easy to sort make the street alcohol free zone only allowing to be consumed on a licenced premises I am sure the theatre and other business would welcome this.

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