Evidence of drug-taking leaves Hove bar’s future hanging in the balance

A bar’s future hangs in the balance after a hearing to decide whether it can keep its drinks licence was put on hold.

It was not only the customers who were taking drugs, according to a barrister for the police, “but also there is drug activity around the staff.”

The barrister, Peter Savill, said: “The drug-related problems have persisted in spite of changes of ownership, licence holder and management. It has persisted notwithstanding the intervention of the police and police warnings.

“The concern here is this drug activity is to an extent ingrained in this premises.”

Sussex Police asked Brighton and Hove City Council to revoke the licence for Antidote, formerly the Back Beat Bar, in Western Road, Hove.

The building’s owner James Dyson, 59, director of Ritan Enterprises Limited, wants the chance to start again with Brighton and Hove-based Bar Logic taking over the venue with stricter licence conditions.

But 90 minutes into a licence review hearing today (Monday 6 February), the licensing panel – made up three councillors – adjourned the hearing until early next month.

The panel said that this should allow Mr Dyson and Sussex Police the time to try to work out the necessary strict conditions if the licence was not to be revoked.

Sussex Police called for the licence review after tests indicated that “bulk” amounts of cocaine had been in contact with several surfaces on four separate occasions from December 2021 to December 2022.

Test readings also indicated ketamine on two occasions, albeit at low levels, and traces of heroin were found in the DJ booth at the bar.

Peter Savill, counsel for Sussex Police, told the panel that the premises had a “lengthy history” of serious drug problems dating back to when it was known as the Back Beat Bar.

Police were concerned to find evidence of cocaine use in “staff only” areas including the kitchen and staff side of the bar.

When the police asked the council to revoke the premises licence, Mr Dyson ended Antidote’s lease, taking over the premises licence himself last month.

He said that he was working with the founder of Bar Logic, Alex Doukakis, who is also the licensee at the Ralli Hall, a community centre, in Denmark Villas, Hove. He also runs bars at events including the Brighton Festival.

Antidote in Western Road in Hove

Mr Doukakis, 48, told the panel that he had 30 years of experience working in bars. He started at TGI Friday and worked his way up the management ladder there and at other pub and bar companies before setting up Bar Logic in 2006. He also said that he had had extensive security training.

Green councillor Zoe John asked whether Mr Dyson and Mr Doukakis would consider operating on just the ground floor as a restaurant and with reduced hours.

Mr Doukakis said: “I’m fully aware of the situation regarding the bar and I understand this project would be a tough undertaking because there is so much history behind the venue.

“We are willing on whatever level to work hand in hand with licensing and the police to make sure we are going to be due diligent, fall in line and into place moving forward.

“We’re not expecting to go in there and create fireworks. We want to build this project as a safe place.”

The panel agreed to adjourn to give Sussex Police, Mr Dyson and Mr Doukakis time to try to agree suitable licence conditions.

Conservative councillor Dee Simson, who chaired the panel, said that councillors would still have the option to revoke the licence when the review hearing continued at a date to be arranged.

  1. Robert Pattinson Reply

    The reason there is so much drug taking is because the Police are not stopping the open dealing on our streets. If the Police did there job drugs would not be so freely available.

  2. George coombs Reply

    I have seen the open dealing mr.pattinson mentions kid pushing joints to other kids have reported

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