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Defending a nightclub premise licence review after a serious incident

The review was brought by the police who were seeking a full revocation of the premise licence

Nightclub scene

A popular nightclub, which had been trading for almost six years, faced closure after the police brought a summary review.

The licensing legal problem:

This review was the result of a particularly serious fight which broke out outside the premises but involved people who’d been drinking inside the premises.

Due to the nature of the fight, the police swiftly brought a summary review, citing concerns over public safety. This resulted in the bar being closed until a full review could be heard before the local council licensing committee.

It was at this point that solicitor Andy Grimsey was contacted by the owner.

During the course of the full review, it was clear that the police were seeking a full revocation of the premise licence and if successful, the bar would close down permanently as it wouldn’t have the permission needed to sell alcohol.

During the hearing the police showed CCTV footage of the night of the fight along with footage from previous fights and violent incidents outside the bar. The footage showed the nightclub’s security teams acting inappropriately on previous occasions, and during one incident, using an illegal move. During the full review hearing, the head of the security team admitted this was unacceptable and one of his team had acted against policy.

All of this painted a very poor picture of the nightclub’s ability to protect the public’s safety, which is one of the four licensing objectives.

The legal value we added:

During the full review hearing, Andy, who had studied the footage of the evening of the incident, successfully argued there was no indication a fight was about to happen so the security team were caught completely unaware. And there was no internal footage that proved otherwise.

Andy persuaded the licensing committee that revocation of the premise licence was not proportionate. This was based on the fact there was no evidence a fight was about to happen on the night and, during six years of operation, the police had never had to warn the operator. In fact, this incident was the first time the bar had ever been before a committee.

The licensing committee agreed.

However, they imposed a maximum three month suspension of the licence and would only allow the nightclub to open before this three month period if Andy Grimsey could supply the licensing authority with a complete review of the premises operations, policies and procedures that satisfied the police and the committee that the bar was safe.

This was a very nervous time for the operator of the bar as being closed for 12 weeks would put him out of business as he was losing thousands of pounds each week.

From scratch, Andy wrote a detailed 60 page guide. This covered all the nightclub’s processes, procedures and staff training relating to:

  • Underage sales and checking the age of customers
  • Dispersal of customers
  • Searching customers
  • Door staff
  • Vulnerability and safely home policy
  • Admission and ejection of customers
  • Co-operation with the authorities such as reporting crime and incidents, drunkenness, disorderly behaviour, drugs and,
  • General staff training

The police and the licensing authority were happy with the guide and allowed the nightclub to open just six weeks into the initial 12 week suspension, saving the operator from going out of business.

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