A Burton nightclub has won its battle with police to stay open until 3am despite protests over alleged violence - including a doorman sacked for punching a reveller - and other separate allegations of sex offences.
The Locomotive won a legal battle amid its claims of errors in Staffordshire Police's allegations of violent incidents and rowdy behaviour at the town centre venue.
The Station Street club had been commended for its record-keeping of incidents which Staffordshire Police then used to object to the club’s application to extend its opening hours, a licensing meeting heard.
The club, which can now stay open until 3am seven days a week, had applied to East Staffordshire Borough Council’s licensing department for permission to vary its opening hours.
But Staffordshire Police objected, claiming there had been a high number of incidents at the venue since February last year, which it says undermined the prevention of crime and disorder, public safety and prevention of public nuisance. The hearing was held by the council’s licensing committee, whose members subsequently granted the application.
Police said the incidents allegedly include a man engaging in sexual activity in the beer garden, another said to have been sexually touching women and a man allegedly being attacked and knocked unconscious by door staff.
The club had initially asked to extend its opening times by two hours from 2.30am to 4.30am.
However, it later reduced this to a 3am closing time with a last entry of 2.30am, which was accepted by the council committee. It is currently open until 2.30am.
In his arguments, barrister Charles Streeten, acting for Staffordshire Police, claimed at the hearing: "There are regularly incidents of crime and disorder late at night and the effect of extending the opening hours will be to extend the times of which those incidents may occur. There is nothing the club has put forward to say that that wouldn't be the case.
“There have been very significant incidents of crime and disorder including a member of the door staff punching an individual in the face causing him to lie in the street. He was left there for some time.
"This is not the type of behaviour you would expect from carefully managed premises. The management accepted they were at fault and they brought in new door staff but incidents at the premises have not stopped.”
Mr Streeten also claimed there was an incident ‘every weekend’ which is strongly disputed by the club.
He also made reference to an alleged fight which he says broke out in the club where glasses were thrown which, he said, the club did not dispute. He also added the Locomotive says there is no proof that a man was engaged in sexual activity in the beer garden.
He claimed: “Every weekend there is incident after incident after incident which is reflective of doing this type of business at this time of night.
“If you allow people to continue drinking in these premises late at night you will continue having incidents of crime that will require greater resources from the police.”
In response, Duncan Craig, acting on behalf of the Locomotive’s licence holder Pam Kaur, said only the police had objected and had used the club’s own incident log in their objection.
He said: “I have looked at the premises and it is very heavily conditioned already which isn’t a bad thing. I don’t believe there are any more conditions which could be added.
“Every case should be taken on its own merits. There has been no representation from any other neighbours or people so if the neighbours had significant concerns about the impact of nuisance then they could make this representation and they did not.
“There are errors in the police statement. The police have taken it upon themselves to raise a number of incidents. No one can guarantee there would be crime and disorder.
"The police are trying to suggest that every time the hours are extended there is crime and disorder and that isn’t the case.
"Saying incidents happen every weekend is manifestly incorrect. There was a spike in reported incidents within December and that is entirely normal."
Speaking about an incident used by the police in which a woman complained she had been punched to the side of the head while leaving the toilet area, it said a complaint was made by the woman to the club and she was shown CCTV to identify the alleged attacker.
"The club claims the CCTV shows her leaving the toilet area and walking through the dance floor. Nothing is seen to have happened at this point, said Mr Craig.
The woman is then seen sitting down on the seats and it is not until 10 minutes later that she approaches door staff to make her claim.
"She still made her complaint. However, as they were leaving her friend allegedly said to door staff: “Don’t take her too seriously. She just had a bit too much to drink and was probably just pushed”, he said.
Mr Craig continued: “Many of these incidents were requested by the police from the premises which the premises had compiled themselves which is clear evidence of meeting the licensing objectives.
“With regards to the doorman [who is alleged to have punched a reveller] he was dismissed immediately.
“On December 24 - the incident of a man touching a female – he was removed from the premises which is an example of the premises taking positive steps
“The premises has no records of drug dealing and there is no suggestions any weapons have been used.
“The police are trying to crowbar evidence into their objection.”
He also added the club’s licence holder Mrs Kaur was a licensing officer with Birmingham City Council for nine years.
The club also operates a policy of carrying out random searches and there is a poster advertising this and hosts Pubwatch meetings at the premises every six weeks. It employs a toilet attendant to keep watch for any potential drug issues and the staff are trained every six months by Mrs Kaur herself, including the glass collectors, he said.
In rebuttal, Mr Streeten told the committee: “If Mr Craig is trying to persuade you that there would not be any crime and disorder during the extended hours then he has not done so.
“The woman who was punched was heavily in drink. If she was served alcohol then that would be a criminal offence. It is this extreme drunkenness which leads to crime and disorder.
“Even with these full conditions we still continue to have crime and disorder.”
In concluding committee chairman Councillor Bernard Peters said: "Each application should be drawn on its own merits. All paperwork is completed on time, they host Pubwatch every six months, there is training for the staff, and they have a toilet attendant. Additional hours would not impact negatively on the licensing issues.
"There are also a number of conditions on the premises to ensure compliance.
"A number of incidents in the police evidence are drawn from the premises' own records and incidents were managed without need for police."
Following the meeting Mrs Kaur told the Burton Mail: "I'm very pleased with the decision to extend the Locomotive's hours of trading and I’m equally delighted about the licensing sub-committee’s comments about the way I take my responsibilities as a licensee seriously.
"I always try and ensure that customers at the Locomotive have an enjoyable time in as safe an environment as possible and I look forward to continue working positively with Staffordshire Police to help achieve that going forward."