A Bognor Regis pub showed ‘signs of improvement’ in dealing with noise and disturbance before it closed earlier this year, according to its owner.
Marilyn Moore, a neighbour of the Unicorn Pub in the High Street, described her life as ‘absolute hell’ between April and December last year due to the noise and behaviour of its customers.
She submitted an application for a review of the Unicorn’s premises licence, but since this was received by Arun District Council the owner has shut it down for the time being.
This application was heard by the council’s licensing sub-committee on Friday (April 5), which decided to make a number of changes to the pub’s licence.
The three-member panel resolved that the current Designated Premises Supervisor (DPS) be removed from the licence and replaced.
Councillors also decided that regulated entertainment and late night refreshment should cease at 12.45am Monday to Saturday and that no customers should be allowed to use the front entrance after 1am except in case of an emergency.
The committee also asked for a comprehensive dispersals policy to be submitted to Arun and Sussex Police within 14 days.
Andy Cooper, chairman of the sub-committee, said: “It would be inappropriate at this stage to consider suspension, revocation or any other significant reduction in the operating hours.”
Speaking about the noise from the pub last year, Mrs Moore said: “This was not a one-off, this was night after night after night.”
She was not asking the pub to be closed but wanted its opening hours to be reduced ‘in line with other premises in Bognor’.
However she did concede the situation had improved over the last few months the pub was open.
The main issue discussed by the committee was the noise generated by people in the vicinity of the pub late at night.
While it was acknowledged that many of these were either leaving or entering the Unicorn it was suggested some of this disturbance was caused by people merely passing through the area.
On this point Mr Cooper said it was ‘not up to the panel to oversee the wider night-time economy of Bognor’.
Officers suggested the pub attracted a lot of people who are looking for somewhere to go after other premises have shut.
They described how the DPS ‘seldom seems to be present when we visited during peak trading hours’ and on occasions staff had acted obstructively.
Pub ‘going the right way’
Vinny Mulhern, the Unicorn’s premises licence holder, suggested before the pub closed ‘it was going the right way with dispersals’.
He explained how they had closed the front entrance at the end of the night so customers had to leave by the side door and asked them to be quiet outside.
They had also worked hard to make sure people left in a staggered way to minimise disruption to neighbours.
But he also acknowledged the team he had in place at the Unicorn ‘was not strong enough’.
Licence review a ‘springboard’ to move forward
Barrister Duncan Craig, representing Mr Mulhern, acknowledged the pub had ‘in some respects fallen short’ but Mr Mulhern did not want to upset any neighbours and ‘has engaged with responsible authorities’.
Mr Mulhern had already submitted an application to make minor variations to the licensing conditions.
Mr Craig said: “What he has not had the opportunity to do is demonstrate they can work with these conditions that mitigate the real and manifest concerns and issues.”
He suggested the licence review was a ‘springboard for the premises to move forward in a positive and purposeful way’.
Mr Craig continued: “There are some signs of discernible improvement. I’m not taking that as evidence that the job is done.”
Speaking to the Observer Mr Mulhern said he was mulling a number of different options for the future of the Unicorn and one of these would be for it to re-open as a community pub.