Sudbury: Nightclub licence suspended
A SUDBURY nightclub is to lose its licence for two months after it was decided the owner breached all of his licensing conditions.
Babergh District Council’s licensing sub-committee voted to suspend the licence of Easterns Station Lounge, after a hearing yesterday that lasted for more than eight hours.
Suffolk’s police and trading standards were pushing for the club to be stripped of its licence after a joint undercover test purchase operation at the Great Eastern Road premises on November 17, during which four children were able to gain entry to the club and purchase alcohol. It is believed to be the first time the authorities have used a 15-year-old in a test operation at a nightclub.
On the same night, door staff alleged that visiting female cast members of the TV programme, The Valleys, exposed their genitalia to customers and were “drinking like animals”.
The combination of events prompted police to call for an immediate suspension of the licence because of they feared “real harm may come to children”, that public safety was being compromised and crime and disorder going unreported.
Speaking on behalf of club owner David Pratt, Alan Aylott of Dadds Licensing Solicitors, said they were victims of an “incompetent” security company which had failed to brief its staff properly.
But barrister Cicely Hayward acting for the police told the committee the problems at the club all stemmed from bad management. She said staff had not been given proper training, and most did not even realise there was a book for logging incidents. She added: “What we have heard today paints the picture of an establishment that delegates all of its responsibilities for the protection of children to its door staff.”
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During the hearing, police officers spoke about events of the test night, and accounts from door staff were also read out. PC Craig Lanigan showed CCTV footage taken by undercover police demonstrating one of The Valleys cast members “slumped against a railing” outside the club, apparently unable to sustain her own body weight.
But Mr Aylott, who did not call any witnesses, later showed footage of the cast arriving at the nightclub, which he said proved they were “far from steaming drunk”. He refuted claims of lewd behaviour and violence in the club, for which he said there was “no evidence” other than “the hearsay of disgruntled door-staff”. He urged the committee to see the event as an isolated incident, adding: “Mr Pratt has been in these premises since 1984 and has never had any untoward incidents that have been brought to the attention of the authorities.”
Miss Hayward stated that in Sudbury between October 2010 and March 2011 there had been 60 offences from 44 incidents - 34 of which related immediately to Easterns and 10 that were in the vicinity of the club. In July 2011 after concerns were raised about management at the club, extra conditions were added to the licence. In August this year, Easterns applied for changes to its licence which were granted in part, and Mr Aylott said: “Police should have given us an action plan at that time if they had any serious concerns - but none were raised.”
He urged the committee to give Mr Pratt a chance to install better security measures including a ‘Clubscan’ ID card scanning system and a ‘Challenge 25’ policy, where people who look like they are under 25 are asked to produce ID.
But Miss Hayward said conditions were not “worth the paper they were written on” if they were not implemented. She said the “evidence speaks compellingly of Mr Pratt not having a grip on very serious issues” such as searching and identifying people as they entered the club, and proper training for staff with regards to serving children.
Easterns has already terminated its contract with Titan Security and has employed new door staff.
Mr Pratt has 21 days to appeal the licensing sub-committee’s decision.