Licensing update on 167 Drury Lane (Drury Club)

Licensing update

The Drury Club, 167 Drury Lane, London WC2B 5PG.

May 2016

The Drury Club has been closed down.  This venue, underneath the New London Theatre on Drury Lane, caused a huge number of problems for residents living locally because of the behaviour of its customers and the people that they attracted to the area late at night.

The CGCA was putting pressure on Camden council, and we were considering starting review proceedings to revoke their licence.  At a meeting with the Council and Police in November 2015 (see below) the Club announced that they were making plans to sell the lease and move on.

This has now happened.  The premises have been taken over by Inception Group, who also run Fogg’s Tavern at the junction of New Row and St. Martin’s Lane.  They will use the basement area for a Pizza Restaurant concept called Bunga Bunga and the ground floor for an all-day Italian café/restaurant.  Both operations will be food-led, although not pure restaurants.  Neither is yet operational but we are in discussions with Inception Group about their plans to ensure that the problems faced by residents in the past vanish for good.

It is worth noting that, with the demise of the Drury Club, local residents have said that issues in the area caused by other later premises (Circus, Guanabara etc.) are now more noticeable.  If any residents in the Drury Lane/Betterton Street/Endell Street area experience issues with licenced premises please let the CGCA know via Licensing@CoventGarden.org.uk.

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Update following a meeting between the Covent Garden Community Association, Police, and Camden Licensing on 5/11/15

Background

The activities of the Drury Club have caused a lot of problems for people living on Drury Lane and Betterton Street.  The issues have been noise, anti-social behaviour and disorder during the period that people arrive at and disperse from the Club.  These have been on the R&B Club Nights, which have been Friday and Saturday evenings between midnight and 3am.  Issues continue after this time.

These problems resulted in residents and the CGCA contacting Camden’s Licensing Team, the Police, Local Councillors and others in an attempt to get the Club under control or closed.

Current Situation and Plans

The Drury Club has decided that they will no longer hold club nights.  They continue to have a licence and will use it for private events such as corporate Christmas parties.  They are keeping the Police informed of the booking and the Police are reviewing these and advising them of any restrictions they wish to have in place for each event.

The Club are in negotiations to sell the lease to another company.  The CGCA has been advised by the lawyer for the Drury Club that the negotiations are well advanced.  The Police and Licensing Authority told us that the new operation would be a food led cabaret style operation with 2 sittings and would be, they believe, a very different operation from that of the Drury Club.  They will need to apply for some Licence Variations and we can use that as an opportunity to ask for additional restrictions.

The ending of Club Nights SHOULD mean that the nuisance and ASB issues in the area will reduce.  There may be some remaining issues but these are likely to be related to people leaving the other venues in the area (Guanabara, Sway, Secrets etc).

What Happened

We discussed with Camden and the Police at some length the process which led to the decision of the Drury Club to end the Club Nights and negotiate to sell the lease.

The Club was on the Police’s watch list for some time because they were frequently changing the Manager (called the Designated Premises Supervisor – DPS).  The Police were concerned about crime and disorder rather than the public nuisance issues.  Camden became aware of the Public Nuisance issues at the end of August when they received emails and photos from the CGCA and some residents.

Please note: if you reported issues associated with the Drury Club before 25th August please let the CGCA know the details of this and we will try to find out why they did not reach Licensing.  It is very important for the future that we identify where the process may be breaking down.

The Club was put on the list for weekend visits by the Weekend Noise Team and by Licensing Enforcement and Licensing (Julia Peterson) visited the venue and told them about the issues being experienced by residents.  A new manager was appointed by the Club and an Action Plan was put in place to address the issues.  This didn’t appear to be effective.

Licensing had just started the process of discussing how to gather evidence to support a Review of the Licence when there was a serious incident at the Club involving GBH.  The Police looked at other (crime) incidents in the area over a longer period and found some that could be connected directly with people who had visited the Club.  As a result the Police called in the Manager for an urgent meeting and told them that they were seriously considering a Review of their Licence on the grounds of the impact on Crime and Disorder.

The Monday following this incident the Club announced their decision to end Club Nights and sell on the lease.

The Club Nights are therefore being ended because of the risk of a Licence Review on the grounds of Crime and Disorder rather than the risk of Review for Public Nuisance.  Whilst Camden Licensing were at the very start of the process of thinking about a Review, it seems likely that this would still have taken a long time to come about.  It is likely that the only other option would have been for the residents to initiate a Review themselves.

Learning for Residents

Following this experience here are some key points that residents need to be aware of in order to stop problems related to licensed premises.

  • Contact Licensing directly as soon as you have problems occurring. Camden Council is a large organisation and internal communication is not always reliable.  Don’t assume Licensing will hear about an issue you have told to another department.  This should be done via email to ppp@camden.gov.uk.   Please copy Licensing@cgca.org.uk as well so we know about it. You need to be clear which premises you believe is causing the problem and as much information as possible about the incident.  This should include time, location, description of problem and the impact on you.
  • Keep on reporting incidents even if you don’t hear back from the Council. The fact that you made a report will be useful later.
  • If you are able to do so please take photos and video. This is very useful evidence for any Review action and also helps people to visualise the problem.  However when taking pictures be careful not to put yourself at risk.
  • Keep the CGCA informed of the problems and what the Council is doing (or not doing) about them. We are often in contact with Licensing and can make sure that they are aware of concerns and are following up with them.  We are all volunteers and are not able to take on the issue for you, but we can provide support and some experience to help you.

Conclusion

In the short term the issues caused by the Drury Club should reduce.  It is still important to report any remaining problems so that they can be taken into account when a new operator applies for a Licence Variation.

When there are public nuisance issues we all need to tell Licensing quickly, but also gather our own evidence, including photos and videos, in order to speed up the process of putting in place actions and, if needed, a Licence Review.

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