Oulton Broad bar loses late night license bid

The Winelodge and Escape nightclub in Oulton Broad plan to extend licensing hours which have caused

The Winelodge and Escape nightclub in Oulton Broad plan to extend licensing hours which have caused Police concerns. - Credit: Archant © 2013

A Lowestoft entrepreneur was this week refused permission to sell alcohol until 3am at his Oulton Broad nightspot after police voiced fears that it could fuel criminal and anti-social behaviour.

David Pickess had applied for permission to allow his Winelodge bar and club on Bridge Road to stay open an hour longer on Fridays and Saturdays to ease problems caused by customers leaving in the early hours.

But Waveney councillors threw out his application after being told that police were concerned that extending the drinking hours could create more noise nuisance to neighbours as people left the building later.

Members of the council's licensing premises panel had heard that when revellers left the Winelodge at its current closing time of 2am, some were shouting, fighting vomiting and urinating by people's homes – and one woman said that she had been forced to close her bed and breakfast business as a result.

However, after his licence extension was turned down, Mr Pickess told The Journal that his request to open until 3am was actually an attempt to tackle anti-social and criminal behaviour.

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If the application had been approved, he said, it would have enabled the Winelodge to stagger the times people left its three separate sections from 1am to 3am to make it easier for them to get taxis and make their way home.

'Our problem is we are too big and popular so when we close at 2am you get a lot of people leaving at the same time and at the end of the night they come out all together and they can not get a taxi,' he said. 'We made the decision to apply for the extension as we wanted to help the situation. We would have people leaving our function room at 1am, the bar at 2am and the Escape nightclub at 3am – it would have helped the situation outside.'

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At Wednesday's licensing meeting, members were told by police that between April and November last year there were 49 crimes linked to the Winelodge, which has an overall capacity of 770.

Police objected to the extension, saying would create further workload for officers stationed outside the venue and would add to problems within an area that already suffered from late-night crime and disorder.

Opposing the application, Insp Andy Howlett told the meeting: 'This will undoubtedly have an impact on residents' lives. It will have a negative impact on the quality of lives of local residents.'

However, Insp Howlett did acknowledge that police had 'a good working relationship' with the staff at the Winelodge and the meeting heard that on its busiest night of the year – the bank holiday Sunday in August – not one incident was reported even though 2,310 people had passed through its doors.

Councillors were told that since the Winelodge opened in Oulton Broad four years ago with its 2am licence, people living nearby had suffered from late-night noise and anti-social behaviour.

Speaking on behalf of residents in Bridge Road was Penny Forrest, who said that yobbish and criminal behaviour had forced her 18 months ago to close her bed and breakfast, The Mill House, opposite the Winelodge.

She said: 'The people of Bridge Road have suffered for years. These people are suffering, just like I am suffering, and I am their voice. The knock-on effect is horrendous. Personally I have lost my business because of it.'

Mrs Forrest, 57, said she lost guests after they witnessed loutish behaviour, such as fighting, urinating in public and shouting. And she told the committee guests had told her: 'Here are my keys, we are going home. We saw people shouting and screaming. There was vomit on the front doorstep and we want our money back'.

Mrs Forrest added: 'I have lost my business and it can not get any worse than that.'

After the licence extension was thrown out, Mrs Forrest told The Journal she wanted the Winelodge to just have an closing time of midnight and her fight to have its original licence looked at again would continue.

After the extension had been refused, she said: 'It is only a partial victory and the fight goes on.'

The decision of the licensing panel to reject Mr Pickess's application was announced by Vicky Nutley, a solicitor at Waveney. She said: 'It would compromise licensing objectives of preventing public nuisance.'

He has 28 days to lodge an appeal against the decision.

Mr Pickess opened the Winelodge in Bridge Road in 2009 and his business portfolio also includes the Premier convenience store in Oulton Broad and the Winelodges in High Street and Victoria Terrace, Lowestoft.

He also runs the Bridges Bar in Oulton Broad and, as well as employing 80 people, he says his primary aim when he takes over any premises is always to 'improve it' as much as possible.

In a bid to stem any problems outside the Winelodge in Bridge Road, Mr Pickess said he had purchased the neighbouring car park so his door staff were responsible for it; taken on a licensing compliance consultant, Richard Woodrow, to train his staff; and was looking at bringing in a taxi marshal.

The Winelodge is part of the pubwatch scheme for Lowestoft, of which Mr Woodrow is the chairman.

Mr Woodrow told the committee: 'The reason why large numbers of people attend the area is they know they will have a safe enjoyable visit during the day or night to premises which are well controlled and well run.'

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