FURIOUS residents have warned that a council bid to sell alcohol in a new community hub will lead to increased crime and hooliganism.
Old Town residents led by Dick Edwards, chairman of the Hastings Old Town Residents Association (HOTRA), are up in arms about Hastings Borough Council’s (HBC) application to licence the recently opened Stade Hall for up to 105 hours a week.
But the council says it is safeguarding the interests of the charitable trust set to run the Stade Hall, by giving it maximum flexibility to set its own agenda over alcohol.
Last month, HBC applied for a premises licence to sell alcohol at the Stade Hall from 9am to 11pm, Monday to Sunday.
“It’s totally ludicrous,” said Mr Edwards. “This is a community hall, specially provided for activities like arts exhibitions, music and workshops. Alcohol should not be served there.”
The Old Town has one of the highest concentrations of cafes, bars and pubs in East Sussex.
Pointing out the high number of alcohol licenses nearby, including those for the new eat@The Stade cafe, and The Stade Open Space, Mr Edwards spoke of his fears that alcohol would attract crime and vandalism to a site he hoped would be a beacon for the local community.
“We have a problem in Hastings with underage drinking,” he said. “This is dangerous territory for all sorts of reasons.”
Kevin Boorman, HBC spokesman, said: “The very last thing we expect to happen is that the Stade Hall will sell alcohol for 105 hours a week. We have given the trustees as much flexibility as possible. I don’t want their policy to be restricted.”
Adding that the Stade Hall was intended as “much more than just a community hall”, Mr Boorman explained the licence would help it host events such as next month’s Seafood and Wine Festival.
He dismissed fears of increased violence, saying: “The police aren’t objecting to the licence. They are laying down some very strict conditions that we are happy to accept.”
The hall is to be handed over to a group of eight trustee designates, comprising local community figures, one of whom is Mr Edwards. The Safer Hastings Partnership, focused on reducing local crime, declined to give a view on the application.