WISBECH: Under fire night club in danger of losing licence following police complaints

Story by JOHN ELWORTHY UNDER-fire Wisbech night club SR Taste Place could lose its licence on Friday following complaints that its poor management is stretching police resources to the limit. On one night recently, a licensing committee will hear, more t


UNDER-fire Wisbech night club SR Taste Place could lose its licence on Friday following complaints that its poor management is stretching police resources to the limit.

On one night recently, a licensing committee will hear, more than two thirds of the town's entire police force was sent to the club to quell a disturbance.

"Violent crime has been an issue at these premises," says Sergeant Rachel Patterson. "Since the granting of the premises licence these premises have experienced a wholly-disproportionate level of crime and disorder.

"The premises are operating both in excess of the authorisation under the licence and in breach of specific licence conditions."

Sgt Patterson is heading the protests which will be heard by a panel of Fenland District Council Licensing Committee, which has the power to close the Falcon Road club.

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Sgt Patterson says the club is not simply a nuisance to neighbouring businesses and residents because of the noise. She claims residents have suffered anti-social behaviour including club patrons urinating and defecating on the street and in private properties.

Litter has been thrown across the road and the music played by DJs is often so loud it can even be heard by people in the North Cambs Hospital.

But it is reports of violence in and around the club that is causing the most concern and Sgt Patterson says since the club opened "it has by far the highest concentration of crime reports of any licensed premises in the Medworth ward".

From May 24-August 4 this year, the Duke's Head recorded only one assault and the Wheatsheaf two thefts, one affray and one public order incident.

"By comparison the tiny SR Taste Place managed to record one grievous bodily harm, four actual bodily harm assaults, two public order incidents - one of which was racially aggravated - one affray, one assault and one offensive weapon charge," Sgt Patterson said.

Sgt Patterson also recalls an incident in June when door staff called police after trying to stop a customer entering the club with a Stanley knife.

At the same time officers were dealing with an incident at the rear of the club when a man had been hit over the head with a broken bottle then stabbed in the face "causing permanent injury".

In June a customer was frequently punched on the dance floor and attacked when he left, and in July a fight involving one local and one out-of-town gang forced Wisbech Police to summon dogs and assistance from Norfolk Police.

And in August two people were arrested for racially abusing SR Taste Place door staff and, as the incident developed more and more, police were needed.

"Eventually 10 officers were required with dogs and this one incident required 70 per cent of all police resources available in Wisbech sector that night," says Sgt Patterson.

CAMBS Fire Service believes the owner and manager of SR Taste Place have been trying to put matters right at the club.

"Both have been helpful and appear to have attempted to put in place all requirements of the service as soon as possible," says a fire service report to councillors.

"The issues, with the exception of the sealed fire exit, appear to have been created by the owners making alterations without thought to the needs of fire safety but concentrating on the needs of other authorities.

"However they have always appeared to be making all efforts to comply with the needs of legislation and their attitude has always been excellent."

ONE resident has become so fed up with the club he has kept logs of noise and disturbances - and fired off emails to the Chief Constable calling for action.

Glenn Ratcliffe says the nuisance has been going on for months following the change of use of the premises from a take away to a night club.

"I fully appreciate people have to earn a living but in doing so this should not inflict a nuisance on other members of the public and, more particularly, nearby neighbours," he will tell the committee.

Tom Read, another resident, has also fired off an objection to the council and says he has seen customers urinating in the street and says some of those drinking outside "are very intimidating".

Another resident says both he and his young family have suffered immensely because of the noise and disturbance.

His son has been forced to sleep on a settee in a room at the front of his house to escape the noise and this is affecting both his work and his health.

"We have six public houses close to our house and so are used to weekend noise but none of them cause anywhere near the same noise level," he says.

FENLAND District Council has five possible options when it meets. Apart from possibly closing the club, it could suspend its licence for three months, force staff changes or modify the existing conditions.

CLUB regulars have written letters of support to keep SR Taste open. The committee will hear that 268 letters of support from club users have been submitted to the council.