Here’s why Hastings venue’s bid to stay open later this weekend has been turned down

A Hastings venue’s bid for late night opening hours this weekend have been refused in light of a rise in violent crime within the town centre.

French's in Robertson Street, Hastings (Photo by Google Maps Street View)
French's in Robertson Street, Hastings (Photo by Google Maps Street View)

On Monday (November 22), a Hastings Borough Council licensing panel agreed to issue a counter-notice against a bid to temporarily extend the opening hours of French’s, a late night bar in Robertson Street.

Through a Temporary Event Notice (TEN), French’s had planned to extend its opening hours from 3am to 5am this coming Saturday and Sunday (November 27 and 28). 

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However, the TEN had seen objections raised by Sussex Police, which argued the late hours would be “likely to undermine the licensing objectives of the prevention of crime and disorder, public nuisance and public safety.”

Police said this was because it had concerns around a rise in violent crime linked to the night-time economy in Hastings.

Level of intoxication and harm in ward ‘unacceptable’

In a letter read on his behalf at the meeting, Inspector Aidan Cornwell of the Hastings Neighbourhood Policing Team said: “In the past few months we have seen the horrific rape of a male following a night out in Robertson Street Terrace, the stabbing of a vulnerable adult in the early hours in Cambridge Road, a male slashed across the face with a stanley knife in a licensed premises, a female left with a broken wrist following an assault in Havelock Road and another male left with a bleed on the brain after being struck in the head with a hammer.

“Each of these attacks have left victims with life-changing injuries and are linked to the night-time economy and intoxication. 

“Incidents like these generate fear within our community and we have seen numerous comments from residents in local papers and social media explaining how they are scared to walk in our streets.

“The level of intoxication and harm being caused within this ward is unacceptable and amongst the highest in Sussex. Any new premises application or TENs should not be issued if they are likely to make this problem worse.

“I would strongly argue that a further two hours of alcohol consumption with DJ until 5am would make this problem worse.”

Inspector Cornwell (and other police representatives) went on to say the force would also object to similar TENs from other venues while crime levels remain high.

The panel also heard Robertson Street was an area of particular concern for police, as was the wider Castle ward.

Venue ‘has good track record’

However, these arguments saw criticism from French’s manager Rick Cowlard, who argued the venue had a good track record of operating safely with extended hours. 

Mr Cowlard also criticised police for linking French’s to a small number of recent incidents (five over five months) without providing the venue with details of them ahead of the meeting so it could effectively defend itself.

Police representatives provided some details of these incidents during the meeting, but maintained the force’s objections were due to the crime statistics, not management of the venue.

After hearing details during the meeting, Mr Cowlard pointed out that none of these had been linked to any of its two previous TENs in October.

He said: “We didn’t have any crime or disorder during those two TENs. I fail to see what happened in the 11 days between our last TEN, the 31st October to the 11th of November. 

“What catalystic event happened that prevents us from having another Temporary Event Notice. It just seems unreasonable to me and hypocritical. 

“These incidents that were reported were all, most of them, before the last two TENs. So why didn’t they object to the last two TENs? So now why do they bring them up when we want TENS in November?”

Mr Cowlard also pointed out that he had only taken on managing the bar in September and had made a number of safety improvements since then. These included more CCTV coverage and more door staff when it had extended hours under TENs.

After hearing from all involved, the panel retired to consider its decision in private before returning to confirm they would issue a counter-notice, refusing the extended opening hours.

Each case judged on its merits

Explaining their decision, the panel’s chairman Cllr Andy Patmore said: “The sub-committee notes that the previous Temporary Event Notices had been allowed to take place at the premises.

“However, the sub-committee have to take each case on its merits and make the decision based on the representations before them, which include the new crime statistics which have been presented by the police. 

“The sub-committee noted the improvements made by the applicant since bringing in a change of management at the venue and this focus on increasing standards and hope this will continue.

“However, on this occasion the sub-committee believed this has not overcome the issue with the licensing objectives.”

French’s has a right of appeal against the council’s decision, however it would have needed to submit such an appeal within hours of the hearing in order to meet the legal deadline.