Woking nightclub must shown ‘immediate’ improvements

A NIGHTCLUB branded the worst in Surrey risks having its license revoked if antisocial behaviour associated with the premises continues.

If police concerns about criminal incidents at Bed Bar are not addressed and ‘real and immediate improvements’ seen, the council will have no choice but to shut them down, the chairman of the licensing committee has announced.

Following a series of late night incidents at the Church Path club, Surrey Police called a meeting of Woking Borough Council’s licensing sub-committee to request that the club have its opening hours reduced and greater restrictions be placed on how many people can be admitted at any one time.

During the February 12 meeting, counsel for Surrey Police, Robert Cohen, told a panel made up of Councillors Carl Thomson, Ken Howard and Amanda Coulson that there had been 47 criminal incidents involving Bed Bar over the past year, including GBH, aggravated assault, drunk and disorderly conduct, drug offences, theft, criminal damage and sexual assault.

Mr Cohen said that Bed Bar had the highest number of recorded incidents out of all licensed premises in Surrey, and that much of the violence and disorder in Woking at weekends stemmed from the club.

A witness statement provided by neighbourhood officer PC Philip Beach described a mass brawl outside Bed Bar last October involving around 25 people, with ‘two or three separate groups fighting, lots of punches thrown, and screaming and shouting’.

In another incident, police described seeing a woman walk out of Bed Bar and immediately vomit on the ground, while two other females ran towards Albion Square and threw up into the flowerbeds.

Cllr Howard said: “You can understand why we are concerned that the most violent nightclub in Surrey is right in the middle of Woking.”

However, licensing consultant Max Wakefield, representing Bed Bar, told the committee there had been a change of management at the club last year, including a replacement designated premises supervisor, to try and address these concerns.

He said that new technology such as ‘ClubScan’ had been introduced, which allowed door staff to flag up people who had previously been involved in incidents at the club and refuse them entry.

The club has also rolled out a new set of operating procedures to help lower tensions among guests, which include a higher profile security presence, additional training to help bar staff identify inebriated customers, and a staggered dispersal policy at the end of the night.

Mr Wakefield argued: “The problems experienced by the venue are not abnormal. They are recognised and need to improve. They took the initiative to address these issues and did so prior to the review.

“It would be cruel to punish a venue that is pulling out every stop to improve and indeed has improved in a short time.”

After deliberation councillors imposed a set of restrictions on Bed Bar’s license, including; a reduction in its opening hours from 3am to 2am, no entry or re-admittance after midnight, no alcohol to be sold after 1.30am, and a maximum capacity of 325 people.

Explaining the reasons for the ruling, licensing committee Chairman Cllr Thomson (below), said: “Evidence has demonstrated that the prevention of crime and disorder and protection of public safety have been adversely
affected by a high level of serious criminal incidents which have been aggravated by poor management of Bed Bar. We have tremendous sympathy for the police and the work they do to maintain order.

“This was a difficult decision to make and serious consideration was given to revoking Bed Bar’s license.

“However, it was felt that the new management deserved one final opportunity to demonstrate that the changes which are being made can work. We expect to see real and immediate improvements.”

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