See Minute No 98 above for details of discussion.
1) That the premises licence, in respect of Club Aquarium, 256-260 Old Street, EC1V 9DD, be revoked.
2) That the interim steps of suspension remain in place pending the final determination of any appeal.
REASONS FOR DECISION
The Sub-Committee listened to all the evidence and submissions and considered the material provided. The Sub-Committee reached the decision having given consideration to the Licensing Act 2003, as amended, and its regulations, the national guidance and the Council’s Licensing Policy.
The Sub-Committee considered Home Office Guidance, paragraph 9.12 which sets out that the police should usually be the licensing authority’s main source of advice on matters relating to the promotion of the crime and disorder licensing objective. The Sub-Committee noted that the guidance sets out that it remains incumbent on all responsible authorities to ensure that their representations can withstand scrutiny.
The police summarised their evidence under four headings:-
1) Too much crime
2) Problems since premises on notice of review
The licensing authority submitted that since 2014 the licensee and management have attended seven different officer panels. It was submitted that there had been plenty of engagement with management and more so in the last eighteen months and although measures had been put in place incidents were still occurring.
The Sub-Committee noted the submissions from the NTIA that the safe management of cultural events was a challenge across London. The remedy was not to take away a licence but to attempt to resolve issues with key stakeholders. The Sub-Committee also noted the promoter’s view that the issues could be resolved by the local authority and police working together with the premises.
The licensee submitted that the management and personnel at the premises were engaging with the crime prevention objective and co-operating with the police. The licensee submitted that discussions with the police and licensing authority should continue. The licensee presented the Shield report which scrutinised the police evidence and it was submitted that a number of crimes presented by the police could not be attributed to the premises. The licensee offered a number of changes to the licence conditions including a new condition that there would be no admission or readmission of customers to the premises after 3.30am.
The Sub-Committee concluded that the incidents put forward by the police were linked to the premises. The Sub-Committee considered the Shield report and were not persuaded that crimes should be categorised as not attributable to the premises. The Sub-Committee considered that, in terms of the promotion of the crime objective, there should be no distinction of violence towards staff or anyone else. The Sub-Committee were of the view that where a crime report was self-generated by the venue staff, this should be recorded as an incident at the premises. The level of crimes at the premises were a concern to the Licensing Sub-Committee and in particular, the level of intoxication associated with a large number of the reported offences.
The Sub-Committee noted the escalation of crime and disorder following the meeting on the 16 October where the licensee was advised that the venue was under scrutiny, including the option of a review. The Sub-Committee also noted that the offences were generally occurring in the early hours of the morning and the earliest offence since the review occurred at 2.30am.
The Sub-Committee decided that it was proportionate and appropriate for the licence to be revoked.
The Sub-Committee recognised that, in accordance with licensing policy 29, the promotion of the licensing objectives was best achieved in an atmosphere of mutual co-operation between all stakeholders. The Sub-Committee noted the representations from the interested parties in this regard and considered that the promoter had been let down by the management. However, there had been a large level of engagement which failed to achieve the necessary improvements at the premises and the Sub-Committee concluded that it was necessary for the police to submit the review.
The Sub-Committee considered the option of imposing additional conditions but concluded that this was not a sufficient measure that would ensure that the licensing objectives would be promoted. The proposals by the licensee would see the premises still operating until the early hours of the morning and they would not address the pattern of offences occurring in the early hours and the levels of intoxication recorded.
The Sub-Committee also considered the option of suspension. The licensee put forward that a short period of suspension would allow the premises to complete the implementation of new policies. The Sub-Committee concluded that the proposed measures would not be sufficient to promote the licensing objective of crime and disorder.
The Sub-Committee noted the statement of Chief Inspector Holyoak that, since the submission for the review, there had been 3 GBH offences along with 2 incidents of disorder where police had to take over responsibility of the management and dispersal of patrons from the premises. The Sub-Committee noted the Licensing Authority’s submission in relation to the 27 December, that it was a fundamental requirement for a premises of this nature to have an evacuation procedure in place. It should not have been necessary for the police to be called out and the Sub-Committee concluded that this was part of the evidence of systematic failure of the venue management to operate as a safe club.
The Sub-Committee referred to paragraph 11.20 of the Home Office guidance and was satisfied that the appropriate and proportionate remedial action was for the licence to be revoked. The remedies put forward by the licensee were not sufficient to address the unacceptable levels of crime associated with the premises and the Sub-Committee was not satisfied that the licensing objectives would be promoted.
The Sub-Committee considered whether it was appropriate for the promotion of the licensing objectives for the interim steps to remain in place, or if they should be modified or withdrawn. For the reasons as detailed above, the Sub-Committee decided that it was proportionate and appropriate for the suspension to remain in place until any appeal was finally determined.