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Toast To Be Grilled

Toast to be GrilledThis article is about two applications made by Lancashire Restaurant Ltd of 21 Caunce Street Blackpool to request premises licences in respect of property on Wood Street St Annes now named 'Toast' and 'The Loft'.

It's the property that now fronts the popular restaurant, Tiggis. The applications will be considered by Fylde's Licensing Panel on Tuesday.

'The Loft' is the upper floor of the building. It offers a wide range of drinks including cocktails. It has a dance floor and provides entertainment. 'Toast' is described as chameleon premises which offers "a relaxed atmosphere for breakfast and lunch and an a la carte dinner menu". It also offers a wide range of drinks including cocktails and also offers entertainment like 'The Loft'.

The applicant and legal entity is Lancashire Restaurant Ltd., a limited liability company which was incorporated on 13 November 2012, (so it does not yet have a long track record to demonstrate its experience ). It has not yet filed accounts. At the time of its incorporation, it had share capital of £99.

Companies House lists its Directors as being Paul Anthony Horridge of Blackpool and Gillian Louise Barker, of Thornton.

In respect of 'The Loft', the application seeks permission for indoor:

  • plays, films, sporting events, boxing or wrestling, live music, recorded music, performance of dance, and entertainment of a similar description from 0800 to 0400 seven days a week.
  • The provision of late night refreshment from 2300 to 0400 seven says a week
  • The supply of alcohol from 0800 to 0400 seven days a week
  • The application also notes that in respect of adult entertainment there is "none currently anticipated" and the premises will be open to the public from 0800 to 0430 seven days a week.

In respect of 'Toast', the application seeks permission for indoor:

  • plays, films, sporting events, boxing or wrestling, live music, recorded music, performance of dance, and entertainment of a similar description from 0800 to 0230 on Sunday Monday Tuesday and Wednesday and from 0800 to 0400 Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
  • The provision of late night refreshment from 2300 to 0230 on Sunday Monday Tuesday and Wednesday and from 0800 to 0400 Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
  • The supply of alcohol from 0800 to 0230 on Sunday Monday Tuesday and Wednesday and from 0800 to 0400 Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
  • The application also notes that in respect of adult entertainment there is "none currently anticipated" and the premises will be open to the public from 0800 to 0300 on Sunday Monday Tuesday and Wednesday and from 0800 to 0430 Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

These requests will be considered on Tuesday 28 May by Fylde's licensing panel.

We hope they will refuse them

We're not the only ones.

The Police have told the Licensing Panel

".... The applications seek to separate the current premises licence for Toast Cafe Bar and Grill into two separate licensed premises and extend the hours for licensable activities at both venues.

Since the date these two applications were received, the police have received repeated calls regarding crime and disorder at the premises, at weekends between the hours of 2am and 4am. An extension to the current hours of the premises to later than already existing would exacerbate this problem and put further strain on demand.

It is our belief that the premises is not currently controlling customers and preventing crime and disorder, and later licensing activity hours would cause further disruption at, and immediately outside, the venue.

We have tried to liaise with the applicant's agent, however have not been able to mediate on this matter so we have no choice but to object to the application"

Furthermore, Fylde's own Environmental Protection Department has said it does not support the extension of hours on the basis of noise disturbance and has asked for conditions regarding noise to be applied to the operation.

St Annes on the Sea Town Council was, we understand, somewhat confused and split on the matter. The consultation response of the Town Council asks the Licensing Panel to consider the views of families living in the area, and questions the need for opening times and the sale of alcohol between 02:30 and 04.00 am.

Whilst the Town Council minutes of 11 April record that "These observations were made by Councillors Akeroyd, Ford and Lanyon, only", the minutes of the subsequent Town Council meeting (9th May) say that Cllr Akeroyd "did not make any observations" regarding these applications. The confusion and division is further illustrated by conflicting personal letters sent by Cllr Carol Lanyon and Cllr Edward Nash (see later).

The Police And Community Together (PACT) meeting for Central Ward said it opposes the extension of opening hours because of noise disturbance, an increase in anti-social behaviour and assaults since Toast and The Loft opened, and also traffic and litter.

The Ashton and St Leonard's Ward PACT meeting also objected to the proposal on the basis of anti-social behaviour and crime, and that it would put further strain on police resources. The group say they are at a loss to see how encouraging drinking for longer hours than is currently permitted is going to promote the ambience and quieter environment of the town. They urge the Licensing panel to refuse the application.

St Annes Chamber of Trade believe the hours should not extend beyond 2am and record complaints from their members who live above their shops in the Town centre regarding noise disturbance and anti-social behaviour.

Town Councillor Barbara Mackenzie writes in her capacity as an individual and as a business owner in the neighbourhood. She draws attention to noise, litter, nuisance, urinating and vomiting in shop doorways, shop windows being broken. In a section with which we wholly agree, she says "This is not Blackpool. Wood Street has always been designated a cafe quarter, not a nightclub and bar area" She recommends a closing time earlier than they are presently allowed to close.

Two late letters of support have been sent via the applicant from nearby commercial premises. The 'Olive Tree Brassiere' owner says it will be good for tourism and local people, it will save people having to travel to Blackpool, and they let the Olive Tree staff in free after they finish work. They say it creates a buzz around the area over the weekend and they have never had any problems with disturbance or litter.

Another letter from 'Essensi Photography' says they have no complaints of noise, littering or damage, and they support the application that will increase footfall benefiting all local businesses.

We struggle to see that footfall argument, given that most of St Annes shops are not open at 3 and 4 am.

There is also one personal letter of support for the application. It comes from Borough and Town Councillor Edward Nash who - because of his military bearing we dubbed 'the Brigadier'. He writes in his capacity as a Councillor (though it is not clear whether this is as a Borough or Town Councillor) saying it's in his ward and he lives 100 yards from it. He says it has brought a "lease of life" to the cafe quarter. He says he has visited the establishment and finds it to be a high class and well run establishment.

He says he has had no complaints about it at all. He does say residents in this area ought to expect a bit of disturbance but personally he is not troubled by it. He notes that there will always be those attending any place serving alcohol who will misbehave, but the area is well controlled and gives what he calls "our young people" a safe place to enjoy themselves.

He argues it will bring much needed employment to St Annes and concludes "Nobody I have spoken to considers that opening later will cause more trouble or drunkenness, indeed it may help to avoid it. I therefore recommend that a licence is granted, with any necessary conditions."

Patently he doesn't remember being at the Central Ward PACT meeting where is attendance is recorded in the minutes and where the matter was discussed and the minutes record that "A member of staff from Zen restaurant advised that large numbers were exiting Toast at 3.00am and causing a disturbance in Wood Street until they gradually dispersed. This included fights." and also that "The owners of the Washington Cafe were staying up until after 4.00am as they feared that damage would occur to their premises. They said that there were large numbers of people fighting and also that their doorway had been used as a toilet."

Pitted against the arguments Cllr Nash was making in favour of the application, is the submission from Town Councillor Carol Lanyon who wrote in a personal capacity. She spoke of people being disturbed by rowdy and inconsiderate behaviour, not only in Central Ward but any area that is a route to home, adding that in her opinion, any extension to the current licensing hours would be detrimental to the character and fabric of St. Anne's.

She also makes the point that the parents of teenage children are worried about their whereabouts and the various disruptions to family life that roaming the streets until 5.30am will bring.

She argues the town centre disturbances are counterproductive to the community effort that is St. Anne's in Bloom where people have worked hard to enhance the local environment by installing planters on railings around the town, with tubs of flowers outside shops, and have involved the shop keepers and community groups who are maintaining the project but are frustrated by the acts of vandalism against the very objects intended to enhance the ambience of our town.

Like Barbara Mackenzie, she fails to see how encouraging drinking for longer hours than is currently permitted is going to promote the good work that is hoped will continue, and notes that the proposal is not in keeping with the area because St. Anne's has a totally different character to that of Blackpool.

As we mentioned earlier, the St Annes on the Sea Town Council had considered the matter at its meeting of 11th April. The declarations of interest for that meeting record Councillors Goodman, Henshaw and Jacques as being members of Fylde Borough Licensing Committee, and that they all declared a non-personal interest and were not involved in consideration of the three Licensing Application items. The Minutes also show Cllr Akeroyd as being one of the three people who contributed to the Town Council's observations.

But the minutes of their subsequent meeting (on 9 May) made corrections to those minutes to say that

  1. Councillor Akeroyd is a member of Fylde Borough Licensing Committee, not Councillor Goodman.
  2. That Councillor Akeroyd did not make any observations relating to item 123/13 Licensing Application for “The Loft”, 21-23 Wood Street.
  3. That Councillor Akeroyd did not make any observations relating to item 123/13 Licensing Application for “Toast”, 21-23 Wood Street.

We suspect our readers will now be as confused as we are about the Town Council's deliberations on this matter.

Perhaps recording who said what in the meeting was confusing because we were told the debate was quite, shall we say, animated.

We understand that during the Town Council meeting there was some friction between Cllr Lanyon and Cllr Nash when the matter was considered. Cllr Lanyon spoke against the application - and we understand she argued it was specifically the Town Council's role to protect the image and identity of St Annes to the benefit of residents, and to differentiate St Annes from Blackpool and elsewhere. We're told she said the Town Council had a duty to represent their electorate, and a duty to preserve the past and to protect the future fabric and character of St Annes. She also made the point that Blackpool is only two miles up the road for those that wanted night life.

We're told Cllr Nash on the other hand spoke to say he believed the application would be a good thing, adding that he knew the people personally, and had no qualms about their ability.

Cllr Lanyon argued that Cllr Nash ought not to be participating in the debate if he was close to the applicants.

Cue a furious row in the Town Council which saw Cllr Nash bang his fist on the table, saying he strongly objected to any inference that he had a pecuniary interest in the matter. Cllr Lanyon then denied making any such inference, arguing she had not used the word "pecuniary" and had only re-quoted him saying he knew the people personally.

We're told the debate continued with Cllr Nash telling the meeting he had met them in a Blackpool Hotel and they had invested a lot of time and money and worked so hard to bring employment to the night time economy in St Annes.

We understand Town Cllr Gail Goodman (who lives close to the town centre) said she was disturbed by the licensing laws as they currently exist.

So disagreement reigns at the Town Council.

What we think the consultation letters do show, is that Cllr Nash's view seems to be out of step with the Police, the Chamber of Trade, the two Police and Community Together Meetings, and, we suspect, some of his electorate.

Being out of step for someone of military bearing isn't usually a good thing is it?

Our own view on this is quite simple.

The very first counterbalance (back in February 2004) was called 'Nightclubs Should Pay' and it was produced to inform people about, and to and criticise, the Council's plan (which they subsequently sought to deny, but counterbalance knows it to be a fact) to create a 'night-time economy' in St Annes.

Indeed the social problems cause by night clubs was the reason that counterbalance began to publish articles at all.

We argue that St Annes should not have a 'night time' economy, it should have an 'evening' economy.

We are not Blackpool, nor should we import either their hours of operation, or the sort of behaviour and problems we can see nightly, if we travel the short distance up the road to Blackpool.

Our first article began a campaign for a change in legislation to make nightclubs pay for the cost of policing necessary to prevent the disturbance these clubs cause for residents, just as football clubs have to meet the bill for policing their unruly members.

It was followed up with 'License for Anything' in October.

Our campaign received wide support. Both Superintendent Cunningham (then Superintendent, later Assistant Chief Constable, now Chief Constable of Staffordshire), a rock solid, proper policeman, and Blackpool's then booze expert Inspector Rhodes gave the scheme their support after we raised it at a Police and Community Forum.

They took the matter to the Lancashire Police Authority who also supported the view that the 'polluter should pay'.

LCC's Leader of the day was also persuaded, and took it up with Mr Blair's Government - who chickened out of producing the legislation in the face of opposition from the licensing trade.

So we have, as they say, previous form, on this issue.

We have said in previous articles that the requirement to apply for any licence only exists because the action to be undertaken is potentially harmful.

It would otherwise not be deemed to require the regulation of licensing.

Thus the principle underlying the granting of licence must be to prevent or restrict the ability of entities to cause actual harm.

It is therefore entirely illogical to approach licensing from a liberal or permissive perspective when its purpose is the prevention of harm.

A license of any sort should definitively set out what is not acceptable - and, for the good of the community, those who operate outside such parameters should cease to have license to do so.

It therefore follows that to limit and prevent harm - and thus fulfil the objective - the authority charged with granting licenses should approach its task from neither a proactive, nor a neutral stance, but form one of negativity.

Applicants should be required to demonstrate they are not causing actual harm when they apply for permission.

But having Councils undertake the (regulatory) role of licensing whilst, with another hat on, they also undertake the (proactive) promotion of economic development , can do nothing but make the clarity of decision-making more difficult, and lead to charges of incestuous conflicts of interest, rendering the body itself untrusted and disrespected. This is evidenced by Cllr Nash, for whom the potential economic development benefits outweigh the need to prevent harm to residents.

With regard to public opinion on this matter, it was tested when 'the night time economy' was raised at a public meeting called by seven respected local community and business groups, to allow residents to express their concern about the future direction in which St Annes was being driven.

As well as hearing from speakers, the meeting was asked to complete a survey form. Each group had contributed its 2 or 3 top concerns as a statement, and 22 propositions were listed. People were asked to score each statement to show how strongly they agreed or disagreed with it.

In response to the postulation that "St Annes needs nightclubs that regularly stay open until 2am or 3am"  85% of respondents said they disagreed or strongly disagreed, and only 5% agreed with the statement. 10% expressed no opinion.

Assuming the 200 or so attending the meeting held views typical of other residents, it is quite clear there is little public support for nightclubs amongst St Annes residents.

There are many reasons they should be discouraged from operating here:

  • The classic ones are, of course, increased opportunity and probability of crime, nuisance and anti-social behaviour.
  • Then there is the need - and the right - for residents to have quiet enjoyment of their lives. Indeed we can say that counterbalance towers - which is well out of the Town centre - is on an arterial route from town to the North and East of St Annes, and since the nightclub opened, we have once again been awakened in the early hours of the morning (as we used to be when Vogue was operating)  - usually on a Saturday night, as noisy revellers walk home from the club after public transport has ceased.
  • Finally there is the less obvious but hugely important damage to the Town's image and identity that is done by sending out the message that clubland revellers are welcome in St Annes. It's a bit like the Blackpool hotel we knew that tried to offer OAP coaching specials during midweek days, and Stag and Hen parties at weekends. The advertising for the one absolutely destroyed custom for the other and vice versa, (let alone the experience provided when either arrived and realised what was going on).

We also can't help wondering whether it is simply a co-incidence that this application to Fylde comes at a time when Blackpool is consulting on a proposal to introduce an Early Morning Restriction Order (EMRO) that would see late-night entertainment restricted by a 3am curfew on alcohol sales, as councillors look to make Blackpool more family-friendly.

It would be quite handy for Blackpool's clubbing fraternity to whizz down to St Annes to see the last hour or two of drinking out to 4am in the EMRO goes ahead in Blackpool.

However, there is also a little known option that is similar to our original "Night Clubs Should Pay" proposal which is also now available for use.

The 'Late Night Levy' allows licensing authorities to raise a contribution from late-opening alcohol retailers towards policing the late night economy. It is a local power that licensing authorities can choose whether to adopt for their areas. The licensing authority will also choose the period during which the levy applies, between midnight and 6am on each night. Non-exempt premises licensed to supply alcohol in this period will be required to pay the levy.

That at least sounds like a start, and we'd like to see it introduced in St Annes for premises that open between midnight and 2am.

New regulations also allow Licensing Authorities to apply full cost recovery - providing the ability to set their own fees for licensing regulation costs. The change will allow the Authority to include direct costs when they calculate fees which will include:-

  • Processing costs and general administration
  • Cost of representations by licensing, environmental health, health and safety and trading standards
  • Meeting costs
  • Cost of enforcement.

Blackpool Council has been advised by Chief Superintendent Stuart Noble that, "taken together, these changes are very significant and it is believed that the decision to implement any of the new regulations should be considered together to achieve the appropriate balance between reducing crime and disorder, enhancing safety and controlling the social and economic impact."

He also notes that when considered together "alcohol associated crime, NHS and Local Authority services, as well as the cost of lost workforce productivity, amounts to more than £3 billion per year in the North West. This equates to an average of £439 per head per year, rising to more than £700 in the worst affected areas, far higher than the average cost per person for England of £387."

There is much much more detail in Chief Superintendent Noble's full (pdf) report which is available for downloading from Blackpool's website, including very sobering facts and figures about the cost of alcohol to public services in Blackpool. We also have a copy if it ceases to be available from Blackpool's site.

Quite honestly, anyone who reads it would surely be very hesitant about granting night time alcohol licenses.

We hope Fylde's Licensing panel have read it.

Dated:  26 May 2013


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