Hastings bar’s latest bid for extended opening hours in run up to Christmas is rejected

Hastings councillors have turned down another bid for extended opening hours at a late night bar.

Friday, 10th December 2021, 3:32 pm
French's in Robertson Street, Hastings (Photo by Google Maps Street View)

On Friday (December 10), a Hastings Borough Council licensing panel considered an application to temporarily extend the opening hours of French’s, a late night bar in Robertson Street.

Using Temporary Event Notices (TENs), the bar had hoped to extend its opening hours from 3am to 5am on three nights this month — Saturday December 18, Sunday December 19 and Christmas Day. 

French’s had made a previous attempt to hold a late night event at the bar last month, but permission was refused after Sussex Police raised an objection centred on a rise in violent crime linked to the night-time economy in Hastings and the particularly high crime rate in Castle ward.

As with the previous event, Sussex Police objected on the grounds the event would be “likely to undermine the licensing objectives of the prevention of crime and disorder, public nuisance and public safety.”

This was challenged by French’s manager Rick Cowlard, who argued his premises were well-run and not a source of trouble.

He said: “Since I took over management of French’s — as I said at the last hearing — we have had only one incident; a domestic outside. I can’t control everything, especially outside.

“Since we’ve been there we have upgraded our CCTV and when we’ve had Temporary Event Notices we’ve increased our door staff. We were granted two Temporary Event Notices in October and we had no incidents, there were no problems. We had no complaints from police, no complaints from licensing.

“We are not asking for anything more than anybody else already has. Police say it would be a drain on resources but there are already venues open within the town centre past that time.”

He added: “We have made significant progress at the venue making sure people are safe. We’ve put up all the posters, we’ve re-trained all the staff. We’ve got new staff, better CCTV, a new security company and better doormen.”

In its representations Sussex Police reiterated that the objection was not based on concerns with French’s in particular, but that it would be objecting to any new TENs sought in the town centre as the crime rate is considered to be high.

This was challenged by Mr Cowlard, however, who pointed out that no objection had been raised to a TEN submitted by JD Wetherspoon for its bar in Havelock Road on the run up to Christmas. 

He said: “You’ve just said Sussex Police will object to any Temporary Event Notices within [Castle] ward. 

“I know that Wetherspoons have just been granted two Temporary Event Notices for the 23rd and 24th of December. I find that a little bit hypocritical of the police to say we can’t have a TEN, but they can. 

“They are within the same wards and yard away from where we are. How is you can grant a temporary event notice to them and not to us.” 

He added he felt this was an unfair situation and that French’s had been ‘left out in the cold.’

The situation with Wetherspoons’ TEN was unusual. Officers could not initially provide an answer on whether any TENs had been applied for or not.

As a result, the meeting was briefly adjourned while the information was found. After this, officers confirmed that Wetherspoons had applied for a TEN allowing the John Logie Baird to extend its operating hours from 12.30 to 1am on both the 23rd and 24th of December.

Officers said this had been applied for back in October, which Sussex Police said pre-dated their policy of objecting to new TENs.

Officers also noted that the bar normally opens until 1am on Fridays and Saturdays and, unusually, the bar also already has permission to open until 2am on December 24 as part of its main premises licence, rendering the TEN for that day somewhat obsolete. 

After hearing from both parties, the licensing panel retired to consider its decision in a private session before confirming it would issue counternotices, preventing the events from taking place.

The panel’s chairman Cllr Andy Patmore said: “The sub-committee is mindful of the shocking crime statistics presented by the police in relation to Robertson Street and Castle Ward. 

“The sub-committee believes that allowing this Temporary Event Notice to take place, which would allow longer opening times, would exacerbate alcohol-related crime in the area. 

“The sub-committee notes that the previous Temporary Event Notices had been allowed to take place at the premises.

“However, the sub-committee have to take each case on its merits and make the decision based on the representations before them, which include the new crime statistics which have been presented by the police.

“The sub-committee notes the improvements made by the applicant since bringing in a change of management at the venue and this focus on increasing standards and hope this will continue.

“However, on this occasion the sub-committee believed it has not overcome the issue with the licensing objectives.”

French’s has the right of appeal against the council’s decision in court.