Site Name & Address
Licensing Reference No.
Heaven, The Arches, London WC2N 6NG
Renewal of Sexual Entertainment Venue Licence
*Cumulative Impact Area
Present: Jeremy Joseph (Applicant); Craig Baylis (BCLP Solicitors for the Applicant); Richard Brown (Citizens Advice Westminster, Licensing Advice Project); and two Local Residents objecting to the application (represented by Richard Brown and referred to as Guest No. 3 and Guest No. 5, respectively, for the purposes of these proceedings).
Representations: Five representations objecting to the application had been received from residents of Villiers Street, all of whom wished to remain anonymous. There were no representations from Responsible Authorities.
Applicant: Mr Jeremy Joseph
Ward: West End
CIA: West End
Summary of Application
The application was for the renewal of a Sex Establishment licence under the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1982 (“the Act”) for Heaven, The Arches, London WC2N 6NG which was licensed to operate as a Sexual Entertainment Venue (SEV).
The Chairman welcomed everyone to the meeting. In so doing, the Chairman introduced the Members of the Sub Committee and the Council Officers who would be supporting the Sub Committee before explaining the procedure that would be followed at the meeting.
The Chairman then invited the Presenting Officer, Ms Jessica Donovan, to present the report that was before the Sub Committee.
PRESENTATIONS AND SUBMISSIONS
Ms Jessica Donovan, Licensing Officer
Ms Donovan, Licensing Officer, summarised the application that was before the Sub Committee. Ms Donovan noted that additional submissions had been received from Richard Brown and the two residents in attendance at today’s meeting. The submissions had been circulated in the Additional Information Pack sent to Members and the various parties.
Mr Brian Baylis On Behalf of the Applicant
Mr Baylis stated that, as a matter of practicality, it was very difficult when dealing with redacted submissions to know the core of the concerns when some of the redactions may be germane to the points he was about to raise. In addition, it was difficult to engage in a dialogue, as suggested by Richard Brown in his submission, between the objectors and his client, Mr Joseph (who said he would welcome a dialogue with residents) when the residents had exercised their right to remain anonymous.
Mr Baylis said this was a very surprising and disappointing set of objections and he was surprised and concerned that this process was being abused for what should more properly be a premises licence review. The allegations had nothing to do with the character of the sexual entertainment licence and everything to do with the operation of the premises licence itself and it was inappropriate to use this renewal application to complain about the day-to-day operation of the premises.
The reality of the use of this Sexual Entertainment Venue (SEV) was that the SEV licence had only been used nine times since January of this year. Whenever it had been used, the premises had operated at lower capacities than the 1,625 allowed by the premises licence viz. 1,100 and 155 when operating in compliance with the Coronavirus Regulations.
Mr Baylis stated that Richard Brown had tried his best to shoehorn the objectors’ allegations into some sort of legal semblance to try and keep them within the very limited legal grounds that the Sub Committee had for refusing the renewal of the licence. He stated that these grounds were primarily to do with the character of the area as set out in the guidance to the legislation i.e. the proximity of the premises to a school or a church, and had nothing to do with how queues were managed.
When the premises were not operating as a SEV, they operated as a nightclub and music venue and his client had managed these premises for many years without difficulty while maintaining a good relationship with many residents with whom he liaised on a regular basis. Therefore, as a matter of law, he invited the Sub Committee to ignore these submissions and say that they were irrelevant to the application itself and could not constitute anything which was relevant to a reason for refusing the application.
Mr Baylis went on to say that there was no evidence of any linkage between the allegations to the actual use of the SEV. No dates had been provided by the Objectors as to when the problems referred to in the objections had occurred and it was more likely, given the paucity of times that the SEV licence had been used, that the problems had occurred when the SEV licence had not been in use.
In response to several questions by Mr Baylis to the Applicant, Mr Joseph provided the following information.
(a) Before lockdown, G-A-Y Porn Idol ran on a Thursday night and it was rare for there to be a queue outside the premises on those nights. If there were queues to get into the premises, they tended to form on Friday or Saturday nights.
(b) The reasons queues formed included the requirement for extensive security measures to be implemented when letting customers into the premises and to comply with coronavirus social distancing requirements.
(c) Prior to the coronavirus lockdown periods, the SEV licence was only ever used on a Thursday night. Since the introduction of the 10 PM curfew, the premises had been used as a SEV on about four occasions on a Sunday and the capacity had been restricted to 155 customers.
(d) There were SIA security staff at the entrance who implemented the coronavirus “track and trace” requirements, and there were security staff on Villiers Street to safeguard customers leaving the premises as there had been an increase in the incidence of gang-related violence in Villiers Street since the removal of CCTV cameras from the street.
(e) Regular meetings were held with residents to discuss any concerns they might have, not just about Heaven but any of the local businesses, and these meetings were attended by the Police and Westminster City Council. All residents were notified about meetings and about eight or nine residents had attended the last meeting which took place just before the current lockdown.
(f) Westminster City Inspectors tended to inspect the premises more often on G-A-Y Porn Idol nights because of the added security required on those nights. As, generally, there were no queues on the Thursday nights when G-A-Y Porn Idol was taking place, there had been no complaints from City Inspectors about queues outside premises.
In response to a question by the Chairman, Mr Joseph confirmed that, since March of this year and the introduction of the first coronavirus lockdown, there had only been two G-A-Y Porn Idol events in August. Following the introduction of the 10 PM licensed premises curfew, four G-A-Y Porn Idol events had been organised on a Sunday. During the curfew, the premises had opened from 5 PM to 10 PM on Sundays.
In response to questions by Members of the Sub Committee, Mr Joseph and Mr Baylis provided the following information.
(a) There was a maximum capacity for the premises which could not be exceeded at any time. However, the capacity of each area within the premises, when added together, exceeded the maximum capacity of the premises. The premises could operate to the maximum capacity of each of these rooms but only if the number of rooms in use at any one time did not exceed the overall permitted capacity.
Mr Baylis noted that the capacity was limited by the premises licence and not the SEV licence and that when the premises operated as a SEV, it limited its capacity to significantly less than that permitted by the premises licence.
(b) The Applicant had not received any complaints this year about the operation of the premises.
(c) The SEV licence was used primarily for G-A-Y Porn Idol events but the premises also staged performances of burlesque which were covered by the SEV licence.
[Mr Joseph then described the format of the G-A-Y Porn Idol events and the history of the event which had been running for a total of 20 years, 11 of which had been at the present venue].
Mr Richard Brown (Citizens Advice Westminster, Licensing Advice Project), Representing Guests 3 & 5
On a point of clarification, Mr Brown stated that those residents objecting to the application had not done so in previous years because they had been unaware of the application having been made.
Mr Brown stated that, contrary to Mr Baylis’s assertion that the objections were not relevant and that the grounds on which the Sub Committee could refuse the renewal of the application were very limited was not true. He stated that the statutory grounds for objecting to an SEV application were not circumscribed. However, case law suggested that moral objections to an application would not be relevant and that none of the residents were objecting to the application on moral grounds.
Mr Brown stated that the proposal that the Sub Committee ignore the objections had not previously been raised and, therefore, he had not dealt with this matter in his written submission. He stated that the objections clearly related to the nights that G-A-Y Porn Idol events took place and, therefore, were relevant.
[Mr Brown then summarised the Resident’s objections which were set out in Appendix D of the report that was before the Sub Committee, and in the supplementary statements in the Additional Information Pack].
In support of his argument that the objections were relevant, Mr Brown referred the Sub Committee to the provisions of Paragraph 12(3)(d) of Schedule 3 of the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1982 (“the Act”), as set out in his written submission in the Additional Information Pack. He stated that the objectors were not asking that the application be refused, but that mitigating measures be put in place which would address the concerns of residents.
Mr Brown then referred to the Council’s Statement of SEV Licensing Policy (the “SEV Policy”), the relevant parts of which were set out in his written submission in the Additional Information Pack, noting that the objections by residents were included in Paragraph 4.5, Clause (iv) of the SEV policy.
Guest 5 wished to make clear at the outset of her presentation that she did not object to the application on moral grounds and it was her hope that some compromise could be reached with the management of the premises regarding the issues that were of concern to the residents.
In her presentation, Guest 5 referred to the following issues.
(a) The nuisance caused by noisy queues outside the premises every night the premises operated
[Guest 5 stated that she had resided in the area for 15 years and it had been her experience that the premises always attracted queues of people waiting to enter).
(b) Patrons using the smoking area under The Arches tended to congregate and remain there, and on Villiers Street, while smoking and, because some were intoxicated, contributed to noise nuisance in the area.
(c) The staff managing queues outside the premises did not engage with people who were queueing requiring them to keep noise to a minimum so as not to disturb residents.
(d) There had been occasions when security staff from the premises had failed to intervene in noisy fights outside the premises and residents had had to telephone the Police to deal with the fights.
(e) The premises had implemented security measures on Craven Street but had neglected to implement similar security measures on Villiers Street. As staff failed to manage patrons leaving the premises, the noise nuisance meant that residents could not leave their windows open.
(f) Suitable conditions should be attached to the licence to allow better management of the queues. Also, that consideration be given to different ticketing systems and the location of security staff to assist in managing queues, as well as considering an alternative location for the smoking area and limiting the number of smokers using the smoking area at any one time.
In response to a question by the Chairman, Guest 5 stated that she had attended one meeting organised by the Applicant but, because she worked during the day, she could not attend the daytime meetings arranged by the Applicant.
Guest 3 stated that he had no objection to Heaven operating from these premises. He acknowledged that, because of coronavirus, the situation had changed in that the premises had recently been closed for much of the time. However, his objections related to previous concerns which might once again be matters of concern when circumstances changed and after renewal of the SEV licence.
In his presentation, Guest 3 referred to the following matters.
(a) He was aware of a recent meeting organised by Heaven to address the issue of gang-related violence which had targeted the premises patrons. However, he was not aware of any other meetings having taken place for several years and that those meetings had taken place during the day.
(b) Although there had been no complaints about the premises by residents, that did not mean that residents had no concerns about the premises as evidenced by resident’s objections to the present application.
(c) During the 25 years in which he had lived in the area there had been an increase in the number of “big ticket” events held at the premises, and there had been a significant increase in the number of people queueing to get into the premises on these nights, including G-A-Y Porn Idol.
(d) It had been his experience that whenever Heaven was open, there was always a queue to get into the premises, whether the capacity was restricted to 1,100 persons or if the premises was operating to its maximum capacity of 1,600 persons.
(e) There were regular issues of noise nuisance associated with the queues outside Heaven, as well as with customers leaving the premises in the early hours, and there appeared to be no effort by security staff on Villiers Street to control noise nuisance.
[Guest 3 then described the security arrangements, or lack thereof, in Craven Street and Villiers Street].
(f) The patrons using the smoking area tended to remain there for long periods of time, were very loud, and it didn’t appear that the premises’ management were taking measures to mitigate this noise nuisance.
(g) The noise from outside the premises late on Thursday night made it difficult for residents to relax and prepare for work the next day. In addition, if residents went out into Villiers Street at that time of night, they encountered antisocial behaviour and it was a very unpleasant environment. He said that the situation was particularly difficult for residents who had children whose bedroom windows looked onto Villiers Street.
In conclusion, Guest 3 stated that, if the Sub Committee were to renew the licence, he would like to see the conditions set out in his written submission attached to the licence.
In response to a question by the Chairman, Mr Joseph explained how patrons could acquire wristbands that would allow them either free or discounted entry to the premises. He stated that wristbands had been introduced as an alternative to advertising by way of flyers which could be a cause of litter.
In response to some of the comments made by residents, Mr Joseph stated that, because of the increased incidence of gang-related violence targeting their patrons, the management had arranged for security staff to be present on Villiers Street, and that the last meeting with residents to discuss this issue had taken place, at residents’ request, at about 5 PM.
In response to further questions by the Chairman and Members of the Sub Committee, Mr Joseph stated that –
(a) Security staff on Villiers Street were responsible for managing the queues outside the premises and anyone who did not comply with requests to keep the noise down were removed from the queue, photographed and banned from entering the premises.
(b) Security staff were also responsible for dispersal and directed customers generally in the direction of Charing Cross Road as they left the premises, noting that there were a lot of other late-night venues in the area.
(c) There were security staff on Buckingham Street to prevent customers entering the streets around that area where there was no CCTV and to protect customers from becoming victims of gang-related violence.
(d) As soon as the present lockdown ended, arrangements would be made to have a meeting with residents at a time of their choosing. The meeting would involve other local businesses, as well as Heaven and residents.
(e) It was not practicable to restrict the numbers in the smoking area or the length of time that people spent in the smoking area. The smoking area had been located on Villiers Street but, after consultation with the licensing authority and the Police, it had been moved to its present location under The Arches to protect customers and away from residents.
In response to Member’s questions, Guest 5 stated that –
(a) The noise nuisance created by the queues outside the premises was worse on the nights that G-A-Y Porn Idol was taking place as the queues tended to be a lot more animated on those evenings.
(b) She had not been aware of any noise nuisance when the G-A-Y Porn Idol event had taken place on Sundays. However, this may have been attributable to the current coronavirus circumstances.
She stated she disputed Mr Joseph’s assertion that there were security staff all along Villiers Street and noted that the smoking area was located where The Arches met Villiers Street. Referring to a photograph of The Arches, Guest 5 identified the location of security staff and barriers that were erected to control queues on the nights that G-A-Y Porn Idol took place.
The Chairman thanked the various parties for their presentations and for answering Member’s questions. She then invited officers to ask any questions they may have of any of the parties.
Questions by Officers
In response to a question by the Legal Officer, Viviene Walker, Mr Brown stated that he could propose some appropriate wording for conditions that the objectors would like to see attached to the licence.
The Chairman noted that Mr Baylis, on behalf of the Applicant, had indicated during the preceding part of the proceedings that, on behalf of his client, he would not be prepared to accept added conditions to the licence.
The Chairman then invited the various parties, if they so wished, to sum up their presentations.
Richard Brown On Behalf of Residents
Mr Brown stated that, if the Applicant were to arrange any further meetings with residents to discuss matters of concern, he would ask that the meetings be arranged at a suitable time for residents.
He stated that the issue of CCTV was one where the Applicant and the residents found common ground and that it would be desirable if arrangements could be made for CCTV to be installed in Villiers Street.
Westminster City Council’s Basket of Model Conditions included provisions for queueing: MC 26 stated –
“The licence holder shall ensure that any queue to enter the premises which forms outside the premises is orderly and supervised by door staff so as to ensure that there is no public nuisance or obstruction to the public highway”.
[The Legal Officer stated she would confirm whether this condition had been attached to the premises licence].
In response to a question by the Chairman, Mr Joseph stated that it would not be practicable to introduce a system of timed entry to the premises using wristbands, which were available to customers from 8:30 PM. He noted that the description by residents of the security arrangements for the premises referred to nights other than the Thursday night when the G-A-Y Porn Idol events took place [and when the premises relied on its SEV licence].
Guest 3 stated that, given the security measures the Applicant had put in place, he could not see why these measures could not be added as conditions to the licence. In addition, given the Applicant’s evidence today that security staff had assisted the Police by detaining knife carrying members of a gang until such time as they could be arrested by the Police, it should be possible for security staff to deal with matters of antisocial behaviour outside the premises.
Regarding meetings arranged by the Applicant to discuss the concerns of residents, he stated that these would have to be evening meetings for him to be able to attend.
In conclusion, Guest 3 stated that he was anxious to ensure that the concerns of residents prior to the current coronavirus pandemic were addressed now when considering renewing the licence to ensure that they did not reoccur in a post coronavirus pandemic period.
In response, Mr Joseph stated that the security staff were only insured to operate immediately outside and inside the premises and were not insured to work on Villiers Street and, therefore, he was already taking a risk by asking them to patrol Villiers Street. If it was made a condition that security staff patrol Villiers Street and other streets within the vicinity of the premises, it was possible that the insurance company would refuse to insure staff not working inside or immediately outside the premises and the company supplying security staff would then refuse to supply staff.
In response to an observation by the Chairman regarding MC 26, Mr Joseph stated that security staff did manage the queues outside the premises.
[Mr Joseph then described how the queues were managed and operated according to how many customers were queueing to enter the premises on any night. He also informed the Sub Committee that the G-A-Y Porn Idol event took place between 1 AM and 2 AM (followed by a “Meet and Greet” & photo session) after which the club reverted to be a nightclub. Therefore, given the reduced capacity of the premises on G-A-Y Porn Idol nights, he could not see how queues to enter the premises on those nights would be any noisier than on any other night].
Mr Joseph stated that, if queues ever became so long that they stretched out into Villiers Street, he could easily plan for the queue to be split so as not to encroach into Villiers Street. The Chairman stated that such a proposal would probably be welcomed by residents on Villiers Street.
Mr Baylis On Behalf of the Applicant
Mr Baylis stated that this was not an appropriate forum to air the types of grievances made by the Objectors as they were a premises licence concern and not a SEV licence concern. He stated that the reason he was saying this was because the Sub Committee was only dealing with the renewal of the SEV licence and the activities associated with that licence.
He stated that the Sub Committee had heard from Mr Joseph that the SEV activity was sporadic and, if operated for only nine months of the year, as had been the case pre- the coronavirus pandemic, the SEV licence was only ever used once a week or once a fortnight. Therefore, he resisted any conditions being added to the SEV because, to do so, would be disproportionate to the operation of the premises. He stated that the effect of adding conditions to the SEV licence would mean that, for nine months of the year, the Applicant would have to do something different on the nights that the premises operated as a SEV from every other night the premises was open, involving potential additional expense and/or supervision.
It was his submission that it was not appropriate to have different conditions on the premises licence and the SEV licence and the conditions should be proportionate and relevant to the premises. He stated that, putting the objectors’ evidence at its highest, the premises were not only having problems on G-A-Y Porn Idol nights, but on every other night as well. On this application, the Sub Committee could only condition what happens on a night that Mr Joseph operated the premises as a SEV. As Mr Joseph may only run the premises as a SEV every so often, adding conditions to the SEV licence was a pointless exercise.
Mr Baylis stated he was anxious that the Objectors heard this point as it may be that they were under the misapprehension that if conditions were added to the licence, they would operate every night the premises was open, which was not the case.
The Chairman thanked the parties for their summing up. In conclusion, she stated that both the Applicant and the Objectors had heard each other’s submissions and it was clear that residents had several concerns. She recommended that, when circumstances were more propitious, the Applicant should consult with residents and that the residents should be aware that they could call for a review of the premises licence if they felt that the conditions on the premises licence were not being met.
Mr Joseph stated that, if Mr Brown wished to provide Mr Baylis with his contact details, a meeting with objectors, residents and businesses would be arranged for a time when circumstances were better. He proposed that Mr Brown attend that meeting which he hoped would prove that businesses and residents could work together on matters of common concern. Mr Brown confirmed he would be willing to attend such a meeting.
At this stage in the proceedings, the Chairman adjourned the meeting so that Members could retire to consider their decision. She stated that the Sub Committee would not announce its decision today but that a summary of the decision would be sent to the various parties within five working days.
The Chairman then closed the Live part of the virtual meeting.
It was the Sub Committee’s decision to approve the application and to attach further Conditions to the SEV licence, as set out in the Appendix to this minute.
REASONS FOR THE DECISION
The Sub Committee, having considered the papers before it, and having heard representations from the various parties in attendance at the meeting, was satisfied that it was appropriate to renew the SEV licence.
The Sub Committee concurred with the Applicant’s contention that many of the concerns raised by Objectors related to matters that fell for consideration under the premises licence and not the current application to renew the SEV licence. In so doing, the Sub Committee noted that residents had the remedy of applying for a review of the premises licence as a means of addressing their concerns.
That said, the Sub Committee was satisfied that the concerns raised by Objectors in relation to public nuisance, crime and disorder and public safety applied equally to when the premises operated as a SEV, notably on the nights that G-A-Y Porn Idol events took place, as well as other nights when the premises operated as a nightclub. Therefore, the Sub Committee was of the view that it was reasonable, appropriate and proportionate to add a few conditions to the SEV licence, the purpose of which was to promote the licensing objectives on those occasions when the premises operated as a SEV.
The Sub Committee welcomed Mr Joseph’s offer to meet, as soon as circumstances permitted, with the Objectors and their representative, Richard Brown of Citizens Advice Westminster, Licensing Advice Project, in a public forum at a time when objectors and residents would be available to attend such a meeting i.e. an evening meeting.
The Sub Committee also welcomed Mr Joseph’s offer to manage any queues that might form outside the premises, either on G-A-Y Porn Idol nights, or any other night, in such a way as to prevent queues of customers waiting to enter the premises from extending into Villiers Street [Mr Joseph stated this would be possible by splitting the queue into two sections and that he would make arrangements for this to be done].
 Cumulative Impact Area
 Mr Joseph noted that, as Heaven was an LGBT venue, it was subject to strict antiterrorist security measures.
 Residents who had objected to the application, who attended the meeting, and who had exercised their right to anonymity.
 See 4.5 Policy LO3 –
Layout – Policies relating to the layout, character or
condition of the venue
(iv) Whether the layout of the premises promotes the prevention of public nuisance in respect of the proximity of noise sensitive premises in the vicinity, provision for access and egress, or behaviour of customers outside the premises.