Harehills bar has licence revoked following ‘frightening’ incidents

A controversial night spot in Harehills has been stripped of its alcohol licence following a series of violent incidents over the past few months.

Wednesday, 18th December 2019, 6:00 am

Leeds City Council licensing chiefs revoked the licence of Sports Bar & Restaurant, formerly known as Shaftsbury Pool Centre, following claims from police that the severity of recent assaults was “frightening”.

A meeting heard how a number of violent incidents took place in or outside the venue, including three stabbings between July and November this year which resulted in serious injuries.

The panel also heard how noise nuisance was a regular problem at the bar.

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Sports Bar & Restaurant - formerly known as Shaftsbury Pool Centre - on Harehills Lane could have its licence revoked following three stabbings (Photo: Google)

A representative of the bar apologised to the council and police, but questioned some details of the police’s accounts of the incidents.

He also suggested the council’s licensing sub-committee allow the bar to keep its licence, offering to keep the bar closed for the next three months in order to train staff, as well stricter security regulations, shorter opening hours and a rebrand of the bar.

But the panel was not convinced by the promises, adding it was “concerned at the lack of positive action” from the licensee.

The meeting followed an interim hearing on November 21, during which the bar’s licence was suspended. A closure order was also served by the courts on December 5, 2019.

CCTV footage was also shown to members of the council’s licensing sub-committee. Time had not been given for faces to be pixelated, so it was decided it was publicly sensitive and was viewed by the board in private.

Following this, a police licensing officer told the meeting: “We do not take this step lightly.

“In our opinion, the licence should be revoked, to prevent any further serious violent crime and disorder – there have been three assaults which are classified as grievous bodily harm – the most serious assault before stepping up to murder. Currently all three incidents are under investigation or under court proceedings.

“Quite frankly I find the severity of these assaults and the mentality of clientele carrying knives frightening. Added to the mix alcohol and the loss of inhibitions that come with it, it’s only by sheer luck that we have not had a fatality.

“West Yorkshire Police are also of the opinion that the management or staff are nowhere near strong enough, or have the right attitude to maintain public safety.”

An enforcement and liaison officer claimed she had conducted late-night “drive-by” inspections of the premises, adding: “I sat outside the premises at three o clock on August Bank Holiday Monday morning. [There were] 30 customers outside on the pavement, in the road, shouting and carrying on, with music blaring out.

“It was horrendous. This area of family homes, small businesses and a residential care home does not need a night club and its resultant problems.”

An environmental health officer added that they had been called on two complaints regarding noise and patron behaviour.

She said: “We did manage to reduce the noise, but patron behaviour remained an issue.”

Speaking on behalf of the licence holder Salman Haydaran, Luke Ilford questioned some details of the police accounts of the incidents, stressing most took place outside the premises, while denying suggestions that a female suspect in one of the incidents worked at the bar.

He told the meeting: “Can I offer an apology on behalf of the premises holder. I would like to apologise to the police, I would like to apologise to the council and I would like to apologise to this sub-committee.

“We agree any knife related incidents are unacceptable, but they are unfortunately indicative of a broader societal issue, not just this premises.”

Addressing the issue of noise, he said: “The venue has done all it can in relations to music noise, this includes cladding, acoustic boards and a noise limiter. That, as we understand it, has addressed the music noise issues.

“We appreciate concerns about customer noise. We appreciate there is more we can do.”

He later stated that the licensee had put together a series of proposals to improve safety if the bar was allowed to keep its licence.

He said: “The first is to suspend our premises licence for three months. It gives the premises the chance to reset and reboot.

“The clientele, we accept, are a problem. They will move on because they inevitably do. [The three month closure] allows us to hone and work on our policies, the training of our staff, and it allows us to find and appoint a new designated premises supervisor.

“The second thing we invite you to do is reduce the hours on our premises licence to 2am on Monday to Wednesday and 3am on Thursday to Saturday. The incidents tend to take place after 5am, in the early hours of the morning. You as a committee can remove that as an issue by cutting back our hours.

“We intend to change the name of the premises and to rebrand. Rebrands can and do work, and they can be effective up and down the country.

He claimed the venue would improve security, adding: “We have proposed a suite of revised conditions, most importantly to supplement the handheld metal detectors, we will install a knife arch – we hope that no knives will ever be brought into our premises but if they are we will have a policy of search and seizure.”

He added the licensee would also provide an ID scanner, a “quiet marshal” to ensure customers dispersed at closing time, and an independent auditor to regularly inspect the premises.

Following an hour of deliberations in private between panel members, a council legal officer told the meeting: “The licensing sub committee is satisfied that there has been an ongoing issue with behaviour of people outside the premises and this has escalated to a number of knife related incidents.

“The licensing sub committee is concerned at the lack of positive action by the licence holder.

“By refusing the suggested package, the only option left for the committee is to revoke the premises licence and that is the decision of the licensing sub-committee today.”