The ongoing saga of Chester club Platinum Lounge has apparently be resolved, for the moment. The club was refused licence renewal in 2013, but appealed and on 30 April 2014 Mr Justice Stuart-Smith quashed the Council’s refusal to renew the licence. This was on the basis that the council’s policy stated that 1. That a Panel of three Councillors from its Licensing Committee determine applications for renewals of SEVs, and 2. That the composition of that Panel of three was made on a ‘politically proportionate basis’ in line with the composition of the Council. 12 councillors were present, leading to the original decision being quashed and the new application made.
The application was heard on 25 July 2014. The licensing panel considered that there were two main matters which they had to determine, namely: ‘whether there were any direct amenity impacts (or direct harm) on account of the operation of the Club’ and ‘whether, irrespective of the existence of any direct amenity impacts, it was inappropriate (as distinct from directly harmful) for a SEV to be located on Chester’s historic Rows.’
The panel acknowledged that there ‘had been no licensing issues or enforcement activity since 2005 when the Club began operating in 2005’ and were ‘content that the Club was well and responsibly managed and there was evidence to show that it had taken appropriate steps to deal with complaints that had been brought to its attention.’
In considering the direct amenity impacts the panel suggested complaints were ‘difficult to attribute specifically to the Club’ and that the Club was ‘fairly inconspicuous.’
In considering the appropriateness of the SEV on the Rows the panel did not think that there was ‘sufficiently compelling evidence to persuade it that, at the current time, the inconspicuous and well managed Club was fundamentally incongruous or in conflict with its location on the Rows.’
In a unanimous decision the panel decided to renew the SEV Licence, for six months, subject to some additional/amended conditions being added to the Licence, including: the hours for lap dancing be moved back to 6.30pm on race days to “avoid conflict with shoppers” and children visiting the Dewa Roman Experience; a noise management plan be implemented for the outside smoking area; and recommended the club meets with local residents’ associations and businesses.
Campaigner Deborah Lomas, of fair trade shop Rainforest on Watergate Street Rows, said: “I feel extremely let down once again by the council. After making such a grave error in last year’s hearing, which we won, to then have to go through the whole thing again has been exhausting.”
Opponents from the White Friars Residents’ Association, argued that the club had adversely affected businesses; was unsuitable for the increasingly residential area; and that the lap dancing “incongruous” with the heritage and family tourist attraction status of the historic Rows.
An interesting case then, with the council’s own stipulation about how the decision ought to be made about licensing meaning that they effectively had to unpick an earlier decision, and come to a different decision even though the facts of the case presumably remained as were.