A report of the Assistant Director of Improving Public Health had been circulated outlining an application for a Sexual Entertainment Venue (SEV) licence in respect of Richmonds (formerly Slam), Exchange Place, Middlesbrough, TS2 1DR.
Summary of Proposed Licensable Activities and Hours
Sexual Entertainment - 12.00 noon to 6.00am daily.
Full details of the application and accompanying layout plan and the applicants operational procedures and policies were attached at Appendix 1 to the submitted report.
The Chair introduced those present and outlined the procedure to be followed at the meeting.
The applicant and his legal representative and representatives from Middlesbrough Councils Economic Growth Team (making representations), were in attendance at the meeting and confirmed that copies of the report and Regulation 6 Notice had been received.
Details of the Application
The Acting Principal Licensing Officer presented the report in relation to an application for a Sexual Entertainment Venue (SEV) Licence in respect of Richmonds (formerly Slam), Exchange Place, Middlesbrough, TS2 1DR. The application was received on 27 June 2016 and was advertised in the Evening Gazette on 29 June 2016, as required by the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1982.
The report provided details in relation to the relevant legislation regarding the application and background information on the premises.
The premises were currently not trading but had the benefit of a Premises Licence under the Licensing Act 2003 which permitted the sale of alcohol and regulated entertainment for the following hours:-
Monday: 11.00am - 4.30am
Tuesday to Saturday: 11.00am - 3.30am
Sunday: 12.00 noon to 2.30am.
Details of hours for specific dates were also provided in the report.
A total of five objections were received in relation to the application between 6 July and 25 July 2016:-
Local resident - Appendix 4.
Commerce Chamber Ltd - Appendix 5.
Middlesbrough Councils Economic Growth Team - Appendix 6.
Cleveland Police - Appendix 7. The Police subsequently withdrew their representation on 29 July 2016 following the applicant agreeing to reduce the opening hours to fall in line with the operating hours of the premises licence (as set out above). A copy of the applicants agreement to the conditions was attached at Appendix 8.
Contract Experts Ltd - Appendix 9.
It was noted that all of the objectors had been invited to the meeting but had declined the opportunity to attend with the exception of representatives from the Councils Economic Growth Team.
Applicant in Attendance
The applicant was in attendance at the meeting accompanied by his legal representative. The applicants legal representative presented the case in support of the application.
The applicants legal representative stated that applications for SEVs usually attracted significant objections and that he had recently attended a hearing in Sheffield with more than 100 people objecting to a renewal. By contrast, there were very few objections to this application.
It was highlighted that the Government had introduced legislation to ensure that sexual entertainment venues were properly licensed and that applications should be judged against the legislation. It was up to individual Local Authorities to decide whether to adopt the legislation or not. Some authorities had and some had not.
Those that had adopted the legislation were very prescriptive. Middlesbrough had not produced a policy document to deal with SEVs and this had been checked carefully with the Licensing Department by the applicant prior to the application being submitted.
The Committee was advised that the applicant was from Middlesbrough and had worked in the leisure industry, and in this particular sector, for 20 years. He had successfully operated this type of business all over the North and the legal representative advised that he had represented him for around 15 years. The applicant had not experienced any negative interaction with the Police, Members or Licensing departments and was an operator with considerable experience, ensuring there was no negative impact on the location of the premises.
Reference was made to pages 3 - 4 of the submitted report which outlined the mandatory grounds for refusal of an SEV application. It was confirmed that none of these applied to this application.
Discretionary grounds for refusal were covered on page 4 of the report and it was highlighted that there was a civil burden of proof with the onus being on the objector(s) to satisfy the reasons why an application should not be granted. The applicants legal representative felt that points c) and d) (commonly referred to as locality issues) would be the only points relevant for consideration in relation to the objections.
The applicants legal representative advised that the applicant had agreed to a number of conditions being placed on the licence, as requested by Cleveland Police. These conditions were listed at page 81 of the report. In line with the agreed conditions, Members were advised that a layout plan of the premises was attached at page 13 of the report. The plan showed that there was an entrance on Exchange Square and another on Wilson Street and that there were designated, secure changing rooms and dance areas with booths, each with CCTV - in accordance with the Police request. All CCTV would be supervised by the Manager and security. The premises had no windows so members of the public would not be able to look into the premises from outside. In addition, there would be no external advertising on the premises, simply the name, and a notice would be displayed at the main entrance advising of the nature of the entertainment and that no persons under the age of 18 years would be admitted. It was confirmed that there would always be a member of staff situated at the main entrance to ensure that members of the public did not simply walk into the premises.
It was highlighted that pages 17-51 of the bundle contained all of the operational policies for the premises. The applicants legal representative stated that these were very robust and had been used by the applicant over the years to ensure his other premises complied with all the regulations, as expected by the Police and licensing authority.
The Committee was advised that the applicant was an experienced operator and that this was a robust application. The original application had requested the opening hours of 12.00 noon to 6.00am daily, however, the applicant had subsequently agreed to amend the hours in line with the current premises licence, as requested by the Police. It was not anticipated that the premises would open prior to 6.00pm, with only occasional opening during the day for specific events. The applicant proposed to use only the Wilson Street entrance whenever the premises opened earlier than 6.00pm. It was also confirmed that there would be no offensive signage outside the premises, simply the name of the venue.
The applicants legal representative referred to an objection from a resident (pages 69 - 71) and noted that the objector was not present at the meeting. He suggested that it was unique to have only one resident objecting to an SEV application. The legal representative stated that other than point 5) the objection was a general opposition to premises of this nature. Point 5) was borne out in the other two objections from Economic Regeneration and Commerce House, with reference to the railway station and enterprise zone reinvestment. In response to those points, it was highlighted that the way in which the premises would operate meant it would open at later times and the building would be anonymised. The venue would be known as Richmonds - a name which was not offensive. There would be no logos or advertisements on the building. The premises were located directly underneath the A66 flyover and would be fully refurbished with no negative impact on individuals in the area.
The applicants legal representative stated that the applicant had worked with the Licensing Team and had considered the objections. He stated that the Police had advised him that SEV premises tended to have less impact than standard night time venues. The applicant suggested that the reopening of the premises would provide new jobs and business rates for the Council.
Questions to the Applicant from Those making representations
Those making representations were afforded the opportunity to ask questions of the applicant and the following issues were raised:-
The Planning and Delivery Manager stated that, from a transport point of view, 6.00pm was still a peak travel time with passengers travelling on a direct train service from London and the premises was located on a main thoroughfare from the station. A Masterplan for the area in which the premises was located was being developed and significant investment was being sought. The Planning and Delivery Manager considered that such a venue would not give the right impression to passengers travelling to Middlesbrough from outside the area and that the Council wanted to improve public realm in that area.
The applicants legal representative stated that careful consideration had been given to the issues and there would be no advertising at all. The legal representative added that he had previously walked past another of the applicants premises with his three daughters and that they had all been unaware of the nature of the premises.
Questions to the Applicant from Members
Members were afforded the opportunity to ask questions of the applicant, and the following issues were raised:-
A Member made reference to there being no advertising on the building and queried how the applicant planned to let people know the venue was there. The applicants legal representative confirmed that there would be no advertising on the actual building. He stated that some local authorities were very prescriptive around what they allowed on social media, ie nothing offensive, just opening times and nature of the premises. The legal representative confirmed that the applicant would apply that same level of control in relation to the premises in Middlesbrough and would ensure there were no negative comments. It was highlighted that a critical point was that if there was no prohibition on this type of premises in this area, the operator needed to abide by stringent levels of control.
A Member queried how the applicant would be able to control how the media would report on the premises and was uncertain how the applicant could control the advertising aspect. The applicants legal representative responded that the press were entitled to report on the application. Only positive advertising of the premises would be permitted. The applicant was involved in premises in Leeds and York and was very strict as to how advertising was adhered to. The applicant would ensure that no inflammatory language or imagery was used and it was reiterated that the name of the premises gave no indication that it was an SEV. The Police had requested no external advertising on the premises and the only signage would be the name of the premises.
A Member queried whether it was possible for the dancing part of the application to start later than 6.00pm. The applicants legal representative confirmed that the applicant would be willing to move the opening time and start time for entertainment to 8.00pm to allay concerns regarding business cross-over.
Reference was made to the application which named 'A Martin' and 'T Fisher' and it was queried what their roles were. The applicants legal representative confirmed that A Martin was a Director of the company (Access Leisure Ltd) and would have no day to day control of the premises. T Fisher was the owner of the property. P Gourlay was the Operations Manager and would run the business. Mr Gourlay was making another application in Leeds but would be based at the Middlesbrough premises and would be supported by a full management team. The premises licence had been transferred, however, there was no DPS at this stage and it was suggested that Mr Gourlay could be the DPS initially.
Reference was made to the Police report (page 81) which stated that the location in which the premises were situated was a key hotspot for violent crime and that a review of the adjacent premises had taken place earlier this year. The applicant was asked if he would like to comment. The applicants legal representative responded that he had previously assisted the Home Office and visited Police across the country, including Cleveland Police, and had embarked on a night-time economy visit with them in Middlesbrough town centre. He stated that premises of this nature were generally welcomed by the Police as they had less impact than other late night venues. They tended not to offer discounted drinks and drinks were more expensive. There was also no issue with males fighting over girlfriends, etc. He stated that Cleveland Police were pleased with the move from Slam to an SEV. He added that the applicant was from Middlesbrough and was conversant with the issues around the premises. There would be high levels of door supervision and a high level of management control.
The Councils legal representative sought clarification in respect of Mr Gourlay not being specified on the submitted application. The applicants legal representative advised that the application form was not in the format they were used to in other areas and that other forms generally had a section where the operators details could be specified, however, this was not an option on the Middlesbrough form.
In response a query from the Councils legal representative, the applicants legal representative advised that Mr Gourlay was a consultant employed by the applicant (Access Leisure Ltd).
The Councils legal representative asked how the Police had carried out Police checks on Mr Gourlay as his name was not on the application. The applicants legal representative responded that he would need to take instruction on that from Mr Gourlay.
The Councils legal representative noted that Mr Gourlay operated other SEVs and asked whether any of those premises had had their licences revoked or review in the last 12 months. The applicants legal representative advised that Mr Gourlay had operated the Black Orchid in York for the past two years and that it had two renewals without issues.
The Councils legal representative asked the applicants legal representative to provide a list of the premises operated by the applicant and the Company to assist the Committee in demonstrating that paragraph 12 did not apply. The applicants legal representative agreed to do so and requested a short break to obtain the information.
The Councils legal representative referred to Mr Gourlay being employed on a consultancy basis and sought clarification as to whether he would be responsible for running the Middlesbrough premises and queried how many premises he operated in total. The applicants legal representative advised that Mr Gourlay would be responsible for establishing the premises in Middlesbrough and getting it up and running to the same level as the one in York. He would need a strong team in each locality. There would be a period of time between obtaining the licence and the premises opening but there would be a full management team at the premises.
A Member of the Committee expressed concern that if Mr Gourlay was employed as a consultant he would not be a permanent member of staff at the premises. The concern was that once Mr Gourlay had opened the premises, another person might be brought in to run it and the Committee would not be aware of who the other person was.The applicants legal representative responded that there would be a robust management team and that he could obtain the names of those members of staff.
In response to a query in relation to staffing at the premises in terms of whether local people would be employed and whether there would be a minimum age requirement, the applicants legal representative advised that this information was contained within the Company staff policy. All staff must be over the age of 18 years, including bar staff, etc. There was a very strict vetting process in relation to dancers and records were kept of all employees. The premises would be properly staffed at all times and would have expertise of working in such an environment. It was confirmed that local people would be offered jobs with full training.
** At this point in the meeting, the Chair granted an adjournment for a period of 10 minutes to allow the applicants legal representative to obtain the information requested.
** Subsequently, the Committee reconvened at 11.00am.
The applicants legal representative provided a full chronology in relation to the application. The Committee was informed that the premises had been trading as 'Slam' when Mr Gourlay was brought in by Mr Fisher and Mr Martin as there had been issues with discounted drinking. Mr Gourlay had worked with the Police to rectify the problem and had advised that the premises were not commercially viable and that they should close and the premises did close.
The applicants legal representative provided a list of the premises that Mr Gourlay had operated Wild Cats in Leeds, Wakefield, Barnsley, Harrogate, Bristol, Birmingham and the Purple Door in Doncaster and Hull. The applicant employed and trained a team of local staff and was responsible for hiring all staff and ensuring they adhered to all the policies in the bundle.
In relation to operating standards, it was confirmed that there were no issues and that Mr Gourlay was committed mainly to the Black Orchid in York. The Purple Door was now operated by a separate company and Mr Gourlay no longer had associations with it.
It was also confirmed, in accordance with the considerations of the Committee, that Mr Gourlay had no convictions or offences.
It was noted by the Chair that representations had been submitted by a local resident, Commerce Chambers and the management of Dundas Arcade, however, no representatives were present at the meeting.
A further representation had been received from Middlesbrough Councils Economic Growth Team and M McPhee, Project Manager and C Cowley, Planning and Delivery Manager, were in attendance at the meeting to present their representations in relation to the application.
The Project Manager explained that her role had responsibility for exploring what was on offer across the town centre and to continually improve the offer to attract more visitors and investment to the town, particularly business investment. The current perception of Middlesbrough was not good and the Economic Growth Team had been trying very hard to change that perception through various projects and investments.
The Team had worked with the University to improve the University Campus, and had worked with other investors, particularly in relation to the redevelopment of the Baker/Bedford Street area to attract independent micro-pubs and independent traders. An £8.5 million redevelopment of the Town Hall was currently underway and a Holiday Inn Express had now been built. The Team was working to attract a more mature food and beverage offer for the town and had four chains that were interested in coming to Middlesbrough, having never previously considered it as a location. This has been difficult to achieve.
The Economic Growth Team was producing a plan of aspirations for the town which included Albert Road. This area was a key gateway to Middlesbrough Railway Station, Middlesbrough College, Middlesbrough Football Club and the potential new ski centre so it was important to attract the right type of business and to provide a good offer for the town. It was hoped to attract a more mature food and beverage offer in Albert Road and it was considered if a sexual entertainment venue was located there, it would impact on attracting investment in the town.
C, Cowley, Planning and Delivery Manager, was also in attendance at the meeting and stated that the Council was working with Network Rail and other partners to uplift Middlesbrough Station as it was a gateway to Middlesbrough and the Tees Valley. The Economic Growth Team wanted to improve the town centre and types of businesses in Albert Road. Investing in redevelopment and public transport was key to achieving a potential 33% increase in rateable value.
The Planning and Delivery Manager stated that he felt that 6.00pm had been too early for the premises to start operating as it was a peak travel time. Whilst he felt that operating from 8.00pm was more suitable, he expressed concern as to whether this was the type of business that Middlesbrough wanted outside its key transport interchange and also had concerns as to what affect the premises would have on rateable value in that area.
Questions to those making representations
It was confirmed that the applicant had no questions of those making representations.
Members of the Committee were afforded the opportunity to ask questions of those making representations and the following issues were raised:-
In response to a query it was confirmed that the premises were located in an area that was a key gateway to Middlesbrough Collage and that the vast majority of students used that route to college.
It was highlighted that the applicant had agreed to the conditions proposed by Cleveland Police and had also agreed to commence operation of entertainment at the venue from 8.00pm, rather than 6.00pm, and it was queried whether this had impacted on the views of those making representations. The Project Manager stated that 8.00pm was a more appropriate time and would alleviate some of the concerns around the premises operating at a peak travel time of 6.00pm. The Project Manager stated that she still had concerns in relation to the branding of the premises as it would still be known as a sexual entertainment venue and this could impact on potential future investment.
The Committee noted that the area around the Transporter Bridge was being developed to encourage families to visit, including a viewing platform at the bridge and an urban park. The Project Manager confirmed that this was the case and advised that Albert Road was a work in progress and that a report would be submitted to the Executive later in the year. The Council was trying to improve the town centre for people who lived and worked in it and to attract development into Centre Square. By attracting more visitors to the town it was hoped that this would generate additional income and also change peoples perceptions of Middlesbrough for the better.
A Member of the Committee highlighted that Middlesbrough had recently received negative publicity in relation to being one of the worst places for girls to grow up and it was queried whether those making representations felt that granting the application would be to the detriment of the town. The Project Manager stated that, in her opinion, a known sexual entertainment venue would be detrimental to attracting investment to that area of town.
The Acting Principal Licensing Officer highlighted that an application for a Sexual Entertainment Venue licence was only a 12 month licence and that an application for renewal had to be made annually. This had not been stated within the submitted report.
Those making Representations - Economic Growth Team
The Project Manager summed up by stating that the role of the Economic Growth Team was to improve the town centre and that a massive amount of progress had been made over the last three years. The Team wanted to attract more investment into the area to improve the offer for the people of Middlesbrough.
The Planning and Delivery Manager echoed those comments and added that, in respect of the railway station, the Team was trying to garner significant investment and felt that it would be difficult to attract additional investment with this type of premises.
The applicants legal representative summed up by stating that there had been a significant number of negative comments from the Committee.
He highlighted that Mr Fisher was the owner of the property which had been vacant for three years and was now becoming dilapidated. The owner had considered what could be done. The applicants legal representative believed that if the building was totally refurbished with an opaque frontage and simply the sign Richmonds it would be a significant improvement.
The fact that the premises had two entrances lends itself to use them in such a way that they would not have any impact. In terms of the concerns regarding people passing by, the legal representative considered that as Notices of the application had been there for the statutory period and only one resident had objected, this was unbelievably low.
The operator had fine-tuned the operating schedule through the York premises with no negative concerns. There would be no offensive signage or advertising on the frontage of the building. The Police had suggested a reduction in the terminal hour which had been agreed by the applicant and he had, today at the meeting, agreed to operate from 8.00pm, although he may wish to operate earlier at weekends.
The operator had run other premises without concerns. The premises would have state of the art CCTV. The application was an opportunity for licensable activity and would create more than 40 jobs and generate rates for the Council and the building would be brought back into a better condition.
Many concerns had been expressed around perception, but the legal representative stated that he believed there was an equal argument for the application to be granted to stop the building spiralling into decline; which could trigger further investment in the area.
The applicants legal representative acknowledged the concerns in relation to this type of application but stated that there tended to be no concerns once they are actually trading.
The Chair announced that the Committee would retire and go into private session to determine the application and that all parties would be notified of the decision within 5 working days.
The application was considered on its own merits and consideration was given to the representations and documents provided by the applicant and his representative, the relevant written representations by the Police and objectors and the representations made to the Committee by Middlesbrough Councils Economic Growth Team. In reaching its decision the Committee had regard to the above representations, report, legislation and any relevant guidance.
ORDERED that the application for a Sexual Entertainment Venue Licence in respect of Access Leisure Investments Limited for the premises known as Richmonds (formally Slam) Exchange Place, Middlesbrough, TS2 1DR, be refused, for the following reasons:-
1. The Committee decided to refuse to grant the application on the grounds that the grant of the Licence would be inappropriate, having regard to the character of the relevant locality and the use to which any premises in the vicinity were put.
2. The following reasons were given based on the information received and Members local knowledge.
3. The Premises were situated within the Middlesbrough Historic Quarter Conservation Area. The building was in a prominent position situated under the A66 Flyover with a main entrance and exit leading directly onto Exchange Square which was laid out with paving stones, seating areas, trees and a statue of Henry Bolckow, one of the founders of Middlesbrough. Directly opposite the square outside the premises were historical buildings. Commerce House was an iconic building opposite to, and looking onto the premises, that was being developed as service offices which the owners stated were aimed at high rental occupants. There were also plans to provide a high quality café / coffee shop to attract families. Further along from the square were historic buildings used as offices, Teesside Archives and other uses. There were numerous other historic buildings in the area near to the premises in the Conservation Area.
4. Although there would be no external advertising of the activities being carried on inside the premises, and the entrances would be lobbied with access during the day only permitted through the Wilson Street entrance, the premises would be known as a Sexual Entertainment Venue. Therefore, the Committee considered that it was not appropriate for a Sexual Entertainment Venue to be in such a prominent position in the Historic Quarter Conservation Area.
5. The Premises were situated diagonally opposite the railway station which was currently undergoing substantial investment and development. The train station was a key gateway for the Tees Valley. The Committee considered it was not appropriate for a Sexual Entertainment Venue being in such a prominent position in the Historic Quarter Conservation Area and to be one of the first properties seen by the public visiting Middlesbrough.
6. The other entrance and exit led onto Wilson Street. Over the road from the entrance was a Licensed Premises, car park and residential flats close by. Although no residents attended the hearing, the Committee considered it a matter of fact that residents were close to the venue and the Committee did not consider it appropriate for a Sexual Entertainment Venue to be so close to residential premises.
7. This part of Albert Road and Exchange Square was included in the Enterprise Zone area. The Enterprise Zone attracted digital and creative businesses to support the regeneration of the Albert Road area. The area had seen investment from such digital and creative businesses and buildings in the area were used for such business purposes in line with the Enterprise Zone scheme. The Committee considered that the existence of a Sexual Entertainment Venue in this part of the Enterprise Zone Area may potentially discourage businesses establishing or relocating to this area and would be detrimental to the reputation of the area for existing businesses.
8. The Premises were situated at the junction of Albert Road and Wilson Street and onto Exchange Square. Albert Road was the main gateway in the town centre to the Town Hall, MIMA Art Gallery, Central Library, Centre Square, law courts, the shopping areas and hotels which the Committee considered were in the locality of the premises. Albert Road was also the main gateway to the Transporter Bridge visitor attraction. All of these buildings and venues attracted visitors who comprised families with children and could attract such visitors at all times including at night. In addition anyone arriving by train to these venues would generally pass the Sexual Entertainment Venue and may use and cross Exchange Square where it was situated.
9. Middlesbrough College was situated near to the premises and Albert Road was the main thoroughfare for students going to and from Middlesbrough College into the centre. Therefore young students and people using the facilities at the college would have to continuously pass this venue and may often use Exchange Square. Albert Road also led to the University, so again visitors and students to the University may pass the premises.
10. Wilson Street and Albert Road where the premises were situated were busy arteries into the town by people on foot, in cars or via public transport. Also, in view of the uses of the buildings and venues in the area people do 'mill' around the vicinity of the premises during the day and night time and the Committee considered that a Sexual Entertainment Venue was not appropriate for this area.
11. This particular area had been identified as subject to a special cumulative impact policy in Middlesbrough Councils Statement of Licensing Policy. The Policy stated that the density, number and type of licensed premises within this area (the town centre) are negatively impacting on crime and disorder resulting in a high proportion of crime and anti-social behaviour arising inside, outside and in close proximity to licensed premises. Although assurances were given that the premises would be operated properly by an experienced operator with robust policies in place to comply with objectives, the use of the premises would involve the drinking of alcohol and adult only entertainment until late, in an area already suffering with alcohol fuelled crime and anti-social behaviour. It was noted that there was a Premises Licence currently in place for the premises. However, there had been serious incidents involving customers at other premises with alcohol and entertainment licences in the direct vicinity of the premises, again despite assurances that such problems do not generally occur at venues offering adult entertainment and that the Police withdrew their objection, the Committee considered that this showed there were already problems in the immediate area.
12. Middlesbrough Council was working with its partners to redevelop this area with a view to uplifting the area and to create a different offer for the day and night time economy in the town Centre and Albert Road. The Committee was informed that negotiations were taking place with food and beverage suppliers to appeal to business and family custom in this area.
13. The Committee considered that a Sexual Entertainment Venue in that location would be likely to be detrimental to commercial and residential investment in that area and would be detrimental to the reputation of the area where development had already taken place.
14. The Committee considered that conditions on the licence or restrictions in relation to time and that the operator would bring the building back into use or that the licence would be for a limited period, on balance, would not resolve the issues set out above.
15. The Committee considered to possible rights of the applicant to freedom of expression and right to possessions but considered that the reasons given for the refusal in the public interest outweighed any rights of the applicant in this regard, if applicable.
16. The Committee, therefore, decided to refuse to grant the application for a Sexual Entertainment Venue Licence because the grant of the licence would be inappropriate having regard to the character of the relevant locality and the use to which the premises in the vicinity were put for the reasons set out above.
17. It was noted at the meeting that the Committee was informed that Paul Gourlay was going to operate the venue for the applicant. In view that Paul Gourlay was not named on the application form, it was confirmed to Committee that he had no convictions; he had experience in running similar venues in other areas; had history with the current premises and there were no issues as to suitability.
The applicant would be notified of the Committees decision, in writing, within five working days and would be reminded of the Right of Appeal to the Magistrates Court within 21 days of the date of the decision.