Licensees are Too Scared to Call the Police

Published: 14 January 2015

Licensees in Warrington claim they will no longer call the police when there are incidents at their premises for fear that it will be used as evidence against them in licensing reviews.

Warrington Borough Council is set to review the licences of both Shenanigans and Voodoo Lounge, in Warrington’s city centre, due to alleged problems at these bars. This comes after the review of the venue, Fusion, also in Warrington City Centre in December 2014, following allegations of brawling outside the bar, which led to a 3 month suspension of the licence and the imposition of new conditions.

Earlier this year, the Publican magazine reported that police arranged meetings with each late night operator in Warrington to persuade them to close earlier, prompting some licensees to think that the police were attempting to bring in an early morning restriction order without going through the formal procedure.

An operator with 5 venues in the North-West of England, including Voodoo Lounge states that police officers had been "relentless" in investigating his bar and that he feels too threatened to contact the police when there are incidents, in case this is used against him in a future action to review his licences.

"Most weekends seven police officers are watching my front door waiting for something to occur," says Neil Sparks who operated Voodoo Lounge, among others. "They question anyone who is ejected from the premises by door staff to see if they can log it as an incident, whether it is serious or not."  Another late night operator said that if there were any incidents they would be frightened of calling the police because they might shut them down because of it.

Cheshire police themselves state that is a mere coincidence that these 3 premises have been or are being reviewed.

As licensing lawyers, we often hear licensees complain that police collate evidence of alleged problems at the bar without telling them and give no warning prior to a review. Licensing guidance however clearly states that if there are issues, police should speak to the premises operators about them. It may seem that Licensees are responsibly reporting incidents to police and these are being turned around and thrown back at them during review.

The police requests at most reviews are that they either want the closing time to be earlier or else they want revocation of the licence. Either may have dire consequences because often a venues’ main profit comes from their late night opening and an earlier closing time can cause a venue to go out of business.

For further advice and assistance please contact Maria Guida, Licensing partner at Fletcher DaySolicitors by email or telephone, 0207 632 1432.

The contents of this article are intended for general information purposes only and shall not be deemed to be, or constitute legal advice. We cannot accept responsibility for any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in respect of this article.