Bognor venue has licence revoked after ‘breaches’

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ks16000869-1 OTM Sea FiSh phot kate SUS-160731-155513008

The licence of a Bognor venue has been revoked after police and council officers raised concerns over noise and sale of alcohol.

Seafish, in Aldwick Road, was licensed as a restaurant, allowing alcohol to be served alongside sit-down meals.

But Arun District Council’s licensing sub-committee adjudged the facility was now being run as a music-led venue, breaching the terms of its licence by selling booze alongside serving proper meals.

The revocation was supported by the council’s licensing team and Sussex Police, with licence breaches compounded by noise complaints from residents.

Seafish directors Rachel Searle and Sean Parker have vowed to appeal today’s decision (Wednesday, November 23), arguing the licence issue was a ‘grey area’.

Explaining the case, Arun licensing manager Sarah Meeten said: “If you hold a driving licence you need to follow the rules attached to that licence and the same applies to the Licensing Act, regardless of what you are trying to achieve.”

The venue’s licence specifies alcohol should only be sold to those ‘taking table meals there and for consumption by such a person as an ancillary to his meal’.

But the committee was shown police body-worn video from September 9 and 16, which they claimed showed the licence was being breached.

On footage from September 9, customers were recorded drinking at the bar and dancing to a live band, which continued playing past its 11pm deadline.

No meals were visibly being consumed.

Police officer Warren Jones warned Mrs Searle, the designated premises supervisor, that she would be reported for licence breaches during his visit on the 16th.

Jean Irving, head of licensing, said: “Quite unbelievably, after being reported on September 16, PC Jones re-attended on the 17th to see exactly the same again.”

Mrs Searle said she was hosting a private party on the 17th.

In making her case, she acknowledged the inexperience of her and Mr Parker and said running the venue had been a ‘steep learning curve’.

In a letter prepared by Seafish’s legal advisors, Blake Morgan, it was claimed every customer ate a meal.

But it questioned the definition of the word ‘ancillary’, arguing the licence did not state a ‘cut-off’ point for post-meal alcohol sales.

Mrs Searle said she had twice tried to vary the licence, admitting existing conditions did not ideally suit the new direction of the business. She said she was told to withdraw the application as a fresh licence was required.

Arun officers and police, however, contended ‘repeated attempts’ to have Seafish comply with its licence had failed.

Mrs Searle said: “We are 100 per cent willing to cooperate. We are new to the business and are on a steep learning curve.”

Seafish was served with a noise abatement notice by environmental health officers on October 7, following noise complaints.

This meant they could be prosecuted if music was not kept to a reasonable level.

Mrs Searle said steps had already been taken to improve noise levels and installation of soundproofing was under consideration.

In reaching its decision, sub-committee chairman John Charles said councillors felt revocation was the only option.

He said: “On balance members accepted the evidence of the police officers that breaches of licence conditions had occurred during the visits recorded by police video and further accepted observations made by council officers within the submissions that alcohol was being sold without the service of table meals.

“This demonstrated a propensity on the part of the management that there was little regard for the conditions attached to the premises licence.”

Seafish has 21 days from receipt of the decision to appeal to magistrates.

More than 300 residents signed a petition in support of the venue.