Village sports club allowed to open its doors to the general public - but with dozens of conditions

Croston Sports Club
Croston Sports Club

A village members’ club has been granted permission to open to the general public after its operators promised to abide by a series of conditions governing how the venue is run.

But the current manager of Croston Sports Club will not be permitted to become the “designated premises supervisor” under the new arrangements, after councillors concluded that the current club premises certificate had been “compromised in the interests of boosting bar takings”.

The club applied for the new, broader premises licence after officers from Chorley Council learned that “unauthorised” events had been held which were “not provided [solely] for the benefit of members”, a meeting of the authority’s licensing panel heard.

The venue was also served with two noise abatement notices after the council installed monitoring equipment in a neighbouring property during two recent village events co-hosted by the club.

The meeting heard that in granting the new licence, councillors would be subjecting the venue to stricter controls by replacing the current club certificate – which has a single condition attached to it – with a tougher licence boasting 45 “relevant, proportionate and enforceable” stipulations, many of which relate to noise control.

“This has got to be for everybody’s benefit – the premises will be much better policed in future,” the applicant’s agent, Mike Nixon, said.

“My clients cannot be judged until they have operated under a premises licence with a designated supervisor.”

The panel was told that there were no plans to increase the frequency of the special events – like the club’s co-hosting of Croston Fest – to which recent noise nuisance had been attributed.

However, the venue’s nearest neighbour – himself a former publican – had objected to the proposal, fearing the effects of opening the doors to a wider clientele.

Neil Rees also said he had become “a pariah” in the community having wrongly been cast as someone who wanted to see the club closed down.

“The sports facilities are an asset to the village, but it’s becoming like a nightclub. We’ve been told that they can’t tell a band to turn the music down, because you can’t stop people enjoying themselves,” Mr. Rees said.

“It’s not that we don’t want to hear anything [from the club], but it’s mentally draining trying to comfort your children because they can’t get to sleep.”

The panel was played recordings of the incidents which prompted the abatement notices, including swearing, singing and staff noisily closing up.

Club secretary Nick Beswick said the venue wanted to “work with people…and not cause a disturbance”.

Meanwhile, the venue’s manager Lisa Watkinson told councillors that an open-to-all licence would not change the club’s business model. She said that the venue would still want people to become members once they had experienced what it has to offer – and so would still mostly be serving signed-up patrons.

The club pledged that the presence of members of the public would be reserved for “specific functions and events”, as documented on the premises.

Ms. Watkinson added that she had recently emailed the club’s 600 members asking them “to respect our neighbours and to respect me by adhering to the rules better”.

But a former bar manager accused her of failing to abide by the rules by routinely admitting non-members.

“We were instructed that you serve anybody – but if they have a membership number, then they also get members’ discount,” said Mark Wilson, who, the panel heard, is currently taking his one-time employers to an industrial tribunal.

Councillors were told that till logs produced by Mr. Wilson showing a breakdown of drinks served to members and non-members would only be a concern if it could be shown that the non-members had not been “bona fide guests” brought onto the premises by those already permitted to be served.

But in granting the new licence the panel expressed “serious concerns about the management of the premises by Lisa Watkinson” and declined to accept her being specified as the designated supervisor.

The club was also ordered to install a noise limiter before any future “regulated activity” – such as live music after 11pm – occurs under the new licence.

Environmental Health Officer Paul Carter said the club had engaged "positively" with the council and that here had been no breaches of the abatement notices by the time they expired on 31st May.

Speaking after the meeting, Mr. Lees said he was pleased that there at least are now conditions “set in stone” - and for which the club can be held accountable. He is set to meet with the club next week for a discussion.

Ms. Watkinson and Mr. Beswick declined to comment.

WHAT HAS THE CLUB PLEDGED?

The 45 conditions which the club proposed include:

***Arrangements to ensure orderly dispersal of visitors leaving the premises to ensure minimum disruption.

***Staff supervision of patrons eating, drinking or smoking outside to ensure they do so in an orderly manner.

***Noise complaints logged and remedial action taken as a matter of urgency.

***Doors and windows to be closed during "regulated activity" like live entertainment (currently the sole condition on the club premises certificate).

***Appropriate staffing levels to ensure adequate security.