Drinks stall at Lewes Bonfire allowed to sell alcohol

A trader has been given the go ahead to sell alcohol at Lewes bonfire, despite objections from Sussex Police. 

Monday, 25th October 2021, 3:00 pm
Lewes Bonfire 2019. Photo by Jon Rigby SUS-190611-082214001

On Monday (October 25), a Lewes District Council licensing panel considered a Temporary Event Notice (TEN) seeking to sell alcohol from a streetside stall near to the junction of Landport Road and Stansfield Road, during the town’s November 5th bonfire celebrations.

The hearing had been called following objections from Sussex Police, which argued the stall could impact on public safety during the event, due to the potential for alcohol sales to fuel disorder.

Sergeant Denham Vokins, of the Lewes neighbourhood policing team, said: “We have to look at the threat, harm and the risk around any temporary event application.

Where the drinks stall is due to be positioned

“If we look at the very low end for example a fête or a charity fundraiser as a single standalone event, that would probably present very low risk to us.

“Things dramatically change when someone is applying to have a stall selling alcohol in a massive event such as this one.”

As an example of his concerns, Sgt Vokins listed a number of alcohol-related incidents connected to previous bonfire night celebrations in Lewes. 

He also told councillors about an incident which had taken place at the Nevill Bonfire Society celebrations last Saturday (October 23).

During the event, Sgt Vokins said, a group of youths had “let off a rocket” which “narrowly avoided” two police officers. He said this group, who scattered when approached, had been seen carrying “a significant quantity of alcohol”.

Sgt Vokins said: “The purpose of giving you just a few of those incidents is not to paint this as an event which is horrendous, clearly it is not, it is a really good family event with a great history.

“Those unfortunately are the minority of incidents when licensable activity goes wrong and people are permitted to get drunk and that sort of behaviour ensues.”

However, this argument was disputed by Susan Lindsey, a licensing agent acting on behalf of applicant Roger Thorpe.  

Ms Lindsey told the panel how Mr Thorpe had run the stall at eight previous bonfire night events in Lewes, mostly near to the proposed site, which is on route to the Commercial Square Bonfire Society display grounds. This would be the third year it was based at this particular site, she said. 

She said Mr Thorpe had worked with the police to manage these previous events and that they had not resulted in any problems or complaints.

Ms Lindsey said: “The written objection notification from Sussex Police does not actually state how Mr Thorpe’s notification will undermine the objectives of public nuisance, public safety and the prevention of crime and disorder. 

“After eight years of trading it must be incumbent on them to provide more detail and evidence that this notification will undermine the objectives stated.

“Sussex Police did make contact with me by telephone prior to submitting their objection, but did not elaborate any further on how Mr Thorpe’s application will undermine the objectives, but simply stated to me that their instructions were to make blanket objection to all pop-up stalls selling alcohol.

“This would suggest to me that each TEN applied for by anyone falling into the category of a pop-up stall selling alcohol has been pre-determined by Sussex Police, with no thought for the history the applicant may have at the event, the location of the stall, the hours of trading and the type of product on offer.”

Ms Lindsey said this made the police objections ‘unreasonable’ and ‘arbitrary’ and urged the panel to allow the stall to operate.

After hearing from both parties, the panel retired to consider its decision in private. It then confirmed it would not refuse the TEN, allowing the stall to operate.  

Further written details of the panel’s decision are expected to be published within the next five working days.