A Chichester bar - which police say is one of the biggest night life trouble spots along the south coast - has been told to clean up its act.
Calling for a review of the licence at The Vestry in Chichester, Sussex Police recounted a catalogue of crime and disorder stretching back over two years.
They said it was the second most troublesome venue they dealt with in an area stretching from Hove to Hampshire.
Now the popular city centre bar is set to be placed on ‘police probation’ for five months.
A raft of evidence including assaults, homophobic attacks and accusations of drug dealing, was presented to Chichester District Council’s alcohol and entertainment licensing sub committee by Sussex Police on Tuesday (August 25).
Calling for a review of The Vestry’s licence, police had requested the bar stop selling alcohol at 10.30pm, and close at 11pm instead of 1am on Friday and Saturday nights.
When comparing the various premises in Chichester The Vestry appears to have had more issues than others and had more of an impact on police resourcingSussex Police
But they acknowledged a change in management could be a ‘positive move’.
The application will be adjourned until January to allow the management to make changes.
The bar will now be closely monitored and must meet a new set of licensing guidelines
If there are any issues, police can ask for the venue to be closed.
In the report compiled by Sussex Police, officers raised concerns about the ‘effectiveness’ of door staff at The Vestry who, on police observations, had been “smoking and kissing people goodbye rather than controlling the groups leaving and stopping violent incidents, which required police officers to intervene.”
Police also said there was “extreme concern at the level of drunkenness caused by excessive alcohol consumption within, and within the immediate vicinity of, The Vestry.”
They added the duty of care offered to people made vulnerable through alcohol on site was ‘severely lacking’, and members of the public had been placed at risk from patrons.
One officer said: “When comparing the various premises in Chichester The Vestry appears to have had more issues than others and had more of an impact on police resourcing.”
But they hoped the new owner would ‘address the problems’, adding: “The premises are on probation.
“If there is any problem police will immediately go to the committee to ask for the adjournment to be lifted.”
Speaking on behalf of The Vestry, barrister Rory Clark said: “We are under no illusion that if we were to go down this route and come back and the police have a whole list of problems, we are in a very difficult place.”
Councillor Henry Potter argued restrictions on the hours ‘would have been counterproductive’.
New owner Nicholas Marshall who also runs The Richmond Pub in Stockbridge Road, said he would work closely with police and the authorities.
“I have listened to police and changed the process at the Richmond and now at The Vestry as a result of comments and proposals that have been made by them,” added Mr Marshall.
This comes after the closure of the Oving nightclub Thursdays
Former manager says The Vestry ‘has an important role to play in Chichester’
GILL Brown is the former director of Sussex Inns Limited, the company which runs The Vestry.
In a statement given to Chichester District Council, she said: “Throughout every Friday and Saturday evening up to 500 customers are served – about 40,000 per annum.
“Many of them are regulars who clearly feel totally safe in the lively and welcoming atmosphere.
“The Vestry is the largest regular music venue in Chichester. If The Vestry is to be curtailed, where are these young people to go?
“They will migrate to the only alternative similar venues in Bognor and Portsmouth, taking business away from Chichester.
“This is a very small city and every effort needs to be made to encourage the night-time, as well as daytime, economy and ensure that the young people of today, who will be the business entrepreneurs of tomorrow, are encouraged to remain in Chichester.
“I feel passionately that The Vestry has an important role to play in Chichester. To this end I have decided to relinquish any and all responsibility for the operation of the premises.
“I wish Nick every opportunity with his new venture and hope that he is provided with the opportunity to demonstrate his management style with the operation of The Vestry – he has hitherto been most successful with the operation of The Richmond premises in Chichester.”
She said she sold the business to Mr Marshall ‘in an effort to protect the employment of the 30 or so staff at the premises and ensure if possible that the young people continue to remain and enjoy the entertainment in Chichester over the weekends’.
THE Chichester District Business Against Crime is a partnership committed to reducing crime, violence and anti-social behaviour throughout the district.
Known as ‘ChiBac’, the independent scheme is made up of more than 100 members.
Police are keen for venues to actively become members of ChiBac to work with one another and deter anti-social behaviour.
ChiBAC incorporates shopwatch and pubwatch schemes, using a radio system which links member businesses together, along with CCTV and the police – providing invaluable information and support.
Manager Tessa Callingham said: “We don’t want anything that will have a negative impact on the businesses.
“In the long term, this scheme can help the economy. It also stops anti-social behaviour.
“I think it’s important to note that we are completely independent, and not run by the police or council.
“Our members are from the daytime and night-time economy.
“We also have access to images of banned people, and people who are actively shoplifting.”
‘The only university city without a nightclub’
A GROUP set up to salvage Chichester’s nightlife claims strict measures at The Vestry could ‘ruin the city centre’.
A spokesman for ‘Chichester Nightlife’, a social media group which acts a platform for people to discuss ways forward, said: “If we are to market Chichester as a vibrant modern city we need to be more accommodating to all age groups.
“We just need to offer late-night entertainment or a nightclub that is professional, with all authorities working together, drawing people into the city instead of forcing them elsewhere.
“Thursdays was not only a nightclub, it had an infrastructure that had developed over many years, with staff, taxi drivers and a network of pubs in town that worked together to support one another.
“The effects are now starting to spread throughout our town.
“Something does need to be done, but closing and restricting that provision is not the answer.
“Thursdays used to cater for up to 700 people per night and those people need to go somewhere.
“Maybe these are the underlying issues with The Vestry, who knows?
“The sudden closure of Thursdays some weeks ago has now resonated through the city and we need collectively to do something.”
People from the group use social media as an outlet to discuss potential options for nightlife venues in the city.
“There has to be a public-owned property that Chichester District Council can look favourably on to develop as a site for a nightclub.
“‘No’ is not a suitable answer in 2015.
“We are the only university city without any nightlife whatsoever.
“All we need to do is talk, take the situation seriously and move forward before more businesses are adversely affected.”
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