Newark and Sherwood District Council sets out its stall in row over licensing of Corn Exchange
Newark and Sherwood District Council has fought back in a row over the licensing of the Corn Exchange to allow for a 4.30am weekend night closing.
The council released a statement last night (Thursday) after the applicant, Corn Exchange Newark Ltd, said the future of its multi-use leisure proposal for the historic Grade II listed building could now be in doubt.
The applicant took to social media Tuesday night to criticise the council before it had publicly released its decision, something that only happened this evening despite repeated chasing by the Advertiser.
The council said: "Contrary to some comments on social media, the council did not refuse The Corn Exchange Newark’s application for a premise license.
"A premise license was unanimously granted by the council’s licensing sub-committee, with a 3.30am close time.
"The decision was made following a six hour hearing on Friday, August 21, which included the applicant, objections from the police and took account of many other representations that were submitted or heard.
"The panel took full consideration of the applicant’s business case and the decision was made based on the fact that the application was for multifaceted operation covering different areas of the building offering different experiences, including live music, dining and plays.
"Therefore, the panel considered it appropriate to allow different time limits to these different areas of the building.
"For instance, the applicant requested a 4.30am closing time for indoor and outdoor activities on a Friday and Saturday.
"However, the panel agreed that indoor activities instead cease at 3.30am instead.
"All outdoor activities, including the consumption of alcohol, should cease at 11pm, which is entirely inevitable given the location and nearby residents.
"In considering the application, the panel has given due regard to the potential impact on crime and disorder, public nuisance, public safety, and protection of children.
"The times permitted on the licence are a balance between supporting the Newark night time economy while giving some protection to the local neighbourhood.
"The applicant can appeal the decision to magistrates."
"When asked for comment, David Lloyd, leader of the council, said: “Let’s be clear. A license has been granted.
"A license until 3.30 in the morning, earlier than was asked for, and with some entirely sensible limitations on noise and activity in the outdoor area.
"I am very disappointed that members of the licensing committee are receiving unpleasant, and anonymous, calls and messages on the basis of inaccurate information.
"Their role is to balance decisions on the basis of all information supplied – they have done this.
"The Corn Exchange is an important building which we are craven to see protected and brought back into use. We have been very positive in liaising with the owners, Mafia Limited, to explore ways of bringing it back into use.
"The proposal included many day-time activities, not affected by this decision.
"Anyone will know that a 4.30 closure will bring issues for any late-night operator and nearby residents around anti-social behaviour which need to be managed and the Police are part of that management.
"It would be irresponsible to grant such a late license in the knowledge that there could not be effective policing and management of those leaving and finding their way home.
"It strikes me, having watched the footage of the meeting, that the panel reached a sensible decision here which reflects all issues raised.
"Those of us that live in the area already know what difficulties occur at late hours and, frankly, they come with having a night-time economy – which we need in Newark - but they do need managing.
"I am personally curious that an extra hour until 4.30 in the morning is the ‘make or break’ for a viable business.”
The plans for the Grade II listed Corn Exchange, a former nightclub that has lain dormant for years, were said to be family-orientated by day and for the discerning drinker by night.
The first floor would become an ever-changing food court that would seat more than 100 diners, there would be a main bar on the ground floor with a gaming area offering some revival classics such as shuffleboard, and modern upgrades such as interaction darts, board games, dominoes and cards.
Live music would regularly be on offer during weekends and themed nights during mid-week.
The basement area would become a late-serving cocktail bar that would close at 4.30am on weekend nights. It was argued by the applicant that the whole venture was not financially viable without the late-night agreement.
There would also have been a garden area and a bandstand out back and a secret bar.
Matt Clark, a director of Corn Exchange Newark Ltd, whose plans would cost £400,000, said the concept was not for a nightclub, but the 4.30am close was necessary for the whole scheme to be financially viable.
After the company was informed of the panel's decision, it said: "We are sorry to report that the local authority appointed members of the licensing panel has decided it is in the town's best interests to not grant an extended licence at the Corn Exchange."
Unusually, the building already has a licence, granted in 2015, that gives permission to open until 3am.
The company went on: "In fact the new licence that has been granted is such that it is even more restrictive than the one in place for many recent years, therefore of no benefit or encouragement.
"We were confident that our all-inclusive plan, backed by thousands of residents, including our closest neighbours, was a significant step change from operations previously run from the site.
"A rounded venue for the whole family and one which could spearhead a revival and development of leisure activity and tourism based around the Trent.
"Despite evidencing mitigating control methods, and that the venue would not be viable unless granted in a similar manner to that applied for, which still had more restrictions than neighbouring towns and cities, we have been unanimously defeated in our application.
"We are considering our options at this time, which include appeal against the decision, a fresh application, or continued mothballing of the site."