Councillors’ decision on town centre bar expected next week

Fifty-eight pages of police reports were put in front of councillors this week as they considered the future of Crowley’s in Havelock Road.

Hastings Borough Council’s Licensing Committee agenda was dominated by what to do about Crowley’s. Among the pages of reports were details of repeated cases of over-intoxication, two reported incidents of sexual assault occurring a year apart and a stabbing incident on October 26th last year just after 10pm when councillors heard police received a call from a female reporting a stabbing that had taken place on the steps outside Crowleys.

A decision on how to proceed is not expected from the committee until next week. Licensing committee members have five options:

  1. Modification of the conditions of the license;
  2. Exclusion of a licensable activity from the license;
  3. Remove the designated license supervisor (DPS);
  4. Suspend the license for a period not exceeding three months;
  5. Revoke the license completely.

Police are not seeking to revoke Crowley’s license, the meeting was told. Instead police want to see the bar – which has been closed since Halloween and will remain shut until pandemic restrictions are relaxed – forced into a midnight close, two hours earlier than its previous closing time—a condition to which representatives of Crowley’s have agreed.

In fact, Crowley’s representatives have agreed to nearly all conditions put forward by police. Their only differences concern the number of times each month Crowley’s is allowed to operate as a live music venue into the early hours of the morning and the status of the bar’s previous designated premises supervisor (DPS).

Police, as a means of testing the waters as to whether Crowley’s can adequately change, asked that the bar only be allowed to hold live music events twice a month; representatives of Crowley’s instead seek that they be able to do this once a week, in order to build and maintain a reputation as an instrument-led, live music venue.

“We think there is a thirst for live music,” representatives of the venue told the meeting, “played with real instruments and distinct from a DJ led event.”

They explained: “To create a persona if you will, they want to propose that there will be live event once a week after which there will be an hour’s drinks; if they don’t have that persona of being a live premises, they will not be able to be seen as a live music venue. We propose to limit events from 156 nights a year down to 52.”

Police are also asking that former Crowley’s employee Alan Naylor be removed from his position as the bar’s DPS holder and replaced with one approved by them; Mr Naylor however has already resigned, the committee was told. Crowley’s representatives pointed out that Mr Naylor currently runs two other establishments within the town successfully and without issue.

When asked by the committee what he felt went wrong, Mr Naylor told them: “Geographically, people congregate on the corner, there was an amplification of this due to Covid. Notifying people that they could not com in when they would just loiter due to intoxication didn’t work.

“It was really, really amplified by Covid,” Mr Naylor repeated. “Non-regulars turning up alienated the customer-base; I spent most of my time trying to keep the Pig In Paradise afloat by making and delivering food. It was a combination of being overstretched and Covid measures. Sometimes we made mistakes of course but when they did happen we tried our best to plug that gap and really did more than I have seen any other licensee do”

Representatives of Crowley’s submitted a number of conditions they have imposed on themselves for their reopening and stressed throughout the meeting they want to work with the police. These conditions range from not allowing entry to the bar during the last hour of trading, to setting up a form of membership to which customers must sign up, to be able to attend live music events.

Clarification was sought by Councillor Mike Edwards on noise complaints filed against the bar; Crowley’s representatives explained that: “The noise is more a dispersal issue. Activities from within are not causing issues, they have been resolved… gigs were cancelled so the venue could be sufficiently soundproofed; they engaged with the local neighbourhood.”

The committee’s decision is expected next week.

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