Police withdraw calls to close French’s Wine Bar in Hastings

French's Wine Bar
French's Wine Bar

Sussex Police has withdrawn calls to shut down a popular Hastings nightspot after its owners agreed to introduce tough new licensing conditions.

Earlier this year, police applied for the licence of French’s Wine Bar in Robertson Street to be revoked due to concerns around drunkenness and drugs use at the premises.

Hastings Borough Council’s licensing sub-committee had been expected to make a decision on the application at a hearing today (Wednesday August 8), but the meeting was adjourned a few minutes into proceedings to allow legal discussions to continue.

Following a long adjournment the hearing was called off, with both police and the licence holder agreeing to work out details of new, tougher licensing conditions for the bar.

Clare Eames, a barrister representing French’s licence holder Steve Foot, said: “This whole process, without question, will re-engage and refresh the relationship with the appropriate authorities and hopefully members of the local community. Hopefully there will be even more positive dialogue that flows.”

According to meeting documents an updated action plan was submitted to  Sussex Police on August 3, laying out some of the proposed new licensing conditions as well as other measures intended to reassure police.

The updated action plan says the bar’s manager will be replaced, with the new management team  to put in place an improved staff training scheme in an effort to cut down on customer drunkenness.

It also includes a commitment for door staff  to wear body-worn video cameras and carry out random searches for drugs and other contraband at the entrance to the bar.

The updated plan also states the bar has installed a new CCTV system and will improve its record-keeping for licensing.

Many of the measures put forward by the licence holder came in response concerns raised by police in the original application.

The withdrawn application listed a number of serious incidents – including alleged sexual assaults and an incident of Grievous Bodily Harm (GBH) – which police say had involved drunken customers leaving the bar.

Police also criticised bar managers for difficulties in obtaining CCTV footage in connection with some of the incidents listed in the application.

The application also included results of drug swab tests conducted inside the bar.  According to the application, 11 of the 13 areas originally tested showed levels of cocaine residue normally associated with ‘bulk amounts’ of the drug. Police say these were the highest results ever recorded within East Sussex.

In a witness statement submitted as part of the application, Chief Inspector Steve Curry said: “The way this premises has been operated falls far below the standards expected by Sussex Police.

“Police have spent a disproportionate amount of time dealing with incidents that have arisen from French’s Wine Bar. As a result officers have had to deal with injured, drunk and aggressive people.

“The way this premises has operated has either contributed to these situations arising or not done enough to prevent them in the first place.

“The lack of willingness to report crime and support police in serious investigations shows a complete disregard to the prevention of crime and disorder in the community in which they operate.

“It demonstrates a negligence in their duty of care to their customers and an unwillingness to support those who have been victims of crime within their establishment.”

Details of the of the club’s new licensing conditions are expected to be finalised in the coming weeks.