Last week I appeared in front of the Leeds Licensing Sub-Committee to make an application for a new premises licence for a food outlet in Hirst’s Yard. The location is in the middle of one of the two red zones in Leeds, where crime and disorder is still increasing even though the CIP has been tight for many years. There is a presumption therefore that all new premises licences of this type should be refused unless the applicant can rebut the presumption of refusal.
We engaged the Police and the Licensing Authority officer and discussed our thoughts before lodging the application. It is accepted that the topography of the area lends itself to being a crime hotspot. It is a narrow passageway with three exit routes, poorly lit and lots of commercial premises have their skips for waste there. This has created a perfect environment for drug dealers to congregate and look to the young people socialising in the area as their target market.
My client already operates a large basement venue in the area and has been working hard with the police to deal with the localised issues in the area. They had an opportunity to take a small property and decided to approach the Regulatory Authorities with a view to applying to create a small late-night takeaway premises. The idea was that this would provide a catalyst to create better lighting and supervision in Hirst’s Yard. There was an offer of an SIA doorman and the introduction of more CCTV cameras in the Yard. The benefit of the applicant being in the area already with a significant security presence meant that they could link in with other doormen should problems occur.
Finally, we offered to restrict the licence for a 6 month trial period to give the opportunity for my client’s plans to be tested. Nevertheless, the Police and Licensing Authority officers felt that they should make representations about the application so the members could decide.
We had a great hearing, exactly how these applications should work, with some probing questions about the operation of the premises. After retiring to consider the application the Sub-Committee came back to grant the licence, agreeing with my submissions that it was worth trying to do something positive to improve the issues in the area. They accepted that all of the risk was on the applicant as this was a time-restricted application, only to last for 6 months, and that it was a positive move that was worth the risk. They have asked for a full report to be circulated to see what the impact is, and if successful, there will need to be an application in 6 months’ time to get a subsequent licence.
The onus now falls on the operator to provide the additional lighting, new doorman and CCTV coverage and to continue to work with the police to help in the area. I represent a number of operators in the vicinity and we are also looking to see if we can improve the position of the refuse skips and drive up the quality of the environment.