Police call for shorter opening hours at Hastings bar

Sussex Police have called for a Hastings bar to have its opening hours cut due to what officers have described as “a total and wilful disregard” for licensing law.

Tuesday, 20th April 2021, 10:56 am

Next Wednesday (April 28), a Hastings Borough Council licensing panel is to consider a review application tied to Crowleys – a bar on the corner of Havelock and Devonshire Road.  

Sussex Police say the application is due to concerns around a series of incidents connected to the premises involving violence, drug use, excessive drunkenness and breaches of coronavirus restrictions.

As a result, police are calling for the bar to have its operating hours cut back, its licence suspended and a new manager installed. The bar denies any mismanagement, however, and says the measures proposed are “disproportionate.”

Inspector Aidan Cornwall of the Hastings Neighbourhood Policing Team, said: “This establishment is causing a disproportionate drain on the resources of the emergency services and the NHS at a time when they are most stretched.

“A number of members of the public have required emergency treatment for life changing injuries that could have been averted. 

“I believe the lack of supervision and management for this licensed premises is resulting in customers being allowed to get excessively drunk within this premises, this in turn is making them vulnerable to serious violence. 

“There is no other premises in Hastings and Rother that has the detrimental impact on our community that Crowleys is currently having.” 

In its application, Sussex Police says its officers had taken drugs swabs at the premises on several occasions between October 2018 and December 2019. On each occasion (there were four in total) the results showed high levels of cocaine residue in parts of the premises.

Police say officers also conducted a test purchase, during which a 16-year-old police cadet was able to buy beer unchallenged. 

PC Daren Buck, of the Sussex Police licensing team, said: “From my interaction with the premises and its staff over a significant period of time it can be confirmed that this premises has an acceptance for drug use and will only take immediate action when under the scrutiny of Sussex Police.

“It appears that the designated premises supervisor spends very little time at the premises over the period of my visits and the actions of staff and the managers do nothing to deter drug use. 

“The serving of the child only reinforced the fact that this premises has a total and wilful disregard for not only the licensing objectives but the safety of its customers and the law in general. 

“As previously stated, in three years of visiting hundreds of premises in East Sussex and the taking of drug swabs, this premises remains the most prolific in relation to high readings, readings so high they have never been encountered by myself anywhere else.”

In light of its concerns, Sussex Police is calling for the bar to have its operating hours cut from 2am to midnight (Thursdays to Saturdays).

It is also calling for a number of additional conditions to placed on the licence, including an improved CCTV system, a requirement for door staff from 9pm and a zero tolerance drugs policy where staff will call police whenever drugs use is detected.  

As well as this, the bar also wants the council to agree to the removal of the bar’s Designated Premises Supervisor (DPS) Alan Naylor, with his replacement to be agreed in consultation with Sussex Police. 

However, Mr Naylor resigned from his position in February, prior to the current application. Council papers do not have a current DPS listed. 

Mr Naylor – together with his brother Michael Naylor – also operates The Pig’s Palace in White Rock and Tintin’s in Robertson Terrace through a business known as Innovate Leisure Limited.

A legal representative for the bar said: “Innovate Leisure have made successful efforts to address anti-social behaviour and drug use at the premises during their tenure and we shall expand on these matters during our presentation to the committee in due course. 

“During the current public health emergency, Innovate Leisure have implemented numerous policies to promote social distancing requirements and have, when appropriate, closed the premises early rather than allow members of the public to congregate around the premises. 

“Innovate Leisure deny that the premises have been mismanaged or that a reduction of hours would be a reasonable or proportionate response to the evidence submitted.”

Representatives of the business also say the premises’ CCTV system has been upgraded during lockdown and that many of the other policies requested by police have also been put in place already. 

As a result, the business argues that any suspension would be unnecessary and disproportionate.

The licensing review application is the second to be lodged by Sussex Police over the past 12 months, with the first application being withdrawn. It was between the first application being withdrawn and the second application being lodged that Mr Naylor resigned from his post.