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Hertfordshire Constabulary oppose Paparazzi nightclub's licence change
Police have opposed a planned takeover of the currently closed Paparazzi nightclub on the grounds the move is a "ploy" to help the "disreputable" former operator to regain control.
Hertfordshire Constabulary has asked politicians to block the transfer of the club’s licence to Neil Campbell over fears it will allow to the previous licence-holder Ricky Valentine to run it from the background.
Officers have listed serious problems they have had in the club while it was run by Mr Valentine, whose real name is Frederick Williams, and argued he is "not suitable" to operate the establishment.
Among the issues Hertfordshire Constabulary described was an event which it said caused more crime on a single night in the town centre than the force usually experienced in a month.
The club, in The Parade, has been closed since June after its landlord obtained a forfeiture order for unpaid rent.
Mr Campbell has since applied to Watford Borough Council to transfer the club’s licence from Komplete Hospitality Ltd, a company owned by Mr Valentine.
He told police he planned to rebrand the venue and said Mr Valentine would not be involved with its operation.
However in a report to the council’s licensing subcommittee, Police sergeant Mark Bilsdon said the constabulary had "very real concerns" over the application.
He said: "It is felt the pair, Valentine and Campbell, are so closely linked that this application is just a ploy by Valentine to regain control of the venue and to continue operating in the way described below.
"It is feared that due to the history of Valentine, and by association with Campbell, that this involvement with various incidents, that the crime and disorder objective will be side-lined in an attempt to recoup the losses that the venue has thus far sustained as a failed business."
"Mr Campbell will say that he pulled out of the business some time ago having put some £100,000 of his own money into the company. He has allegedly never been repaid by Valentine.
"It may seem somewhat strange that someone is willing to walk away from a business without being repaid a vast amount of their own money (as Mr Campbell claims) if he were not still connected with that business."
The report described Mr Valentine and Mr Campbell as former business partners who had run previous venues in the town such as Vogue and Kandi Club, as well as promoting events at Area nightclub.
Police sergeant Bilsdon said: "As a result of one of the promotions in late 2009 a shooting took place in the Gade car park between rival gangs from London."
The report described Mr Valentine as a constant presence at the club in the two years leading to its closure in June.
Police said during that period they harboured concerns promotions at Paparazzi were causing disorder in the town centre and problems culminated in October last year with the "Musik 4 You" event.
Police Sergeant Mark Bilsdon said: "This event was promoted by Mr Valentine and involved the majority of bars and clubs in Watford town centre taking part.
"The event was widely promoted by Valentine across Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire and London. This promotion was carried out in part by the use of fly posting various areas.
"As a result it attracted people to the area who would not normally come to Watford. The crime figures for that night were truly horrifying, with the constabulary recording more crime in that one night than a whole month. Nearly all of the cell space in Hertfordshire was utilised to deal with the prisoners arrested at the event."
Following the event Hertfordshire Constabulary requested ID data from the Scan Net system in clubs and pubs from the night.
The report said Paparazzi delayed handing over the list and then provided one with false names and addresses on.
Valentine and the club’s then designated premises supervisor, Alison Brown, were arrested and charged in connection with false data. They were both convicted of licence breaches and Brown of also obstructing police on July 23 this year, following a two day trial.
The report said Komplete Hospitality was also convicted in June at Uxbridge Magistrates Court and fined almost £2,000 for fly posting the Musik 4 You event in Hillingdon.
According to police bailiffs acting on behalf of the club’s landlord changed the locks on Paparazzi on June 23 this year due to the forfeiture of the lease. Enquiries with managing agents showed the lease had been forfeit for non-payment of rent believed to be in excess of £60,000.
The report said Mr Valentine was pushing for a relief from forfeiture order through the courts.
Police Sergeant Bilsdon said: "This concerns the constabulary due to fears that a company in serious financial difficulty will begin to take shortcuts with other processes involved in the running of a nightclub, such as CCTV maintenance and other public safety measures."
The police also supplied a quote from a correspondence with Mr Valentine’s solicitor saying his client would be stepping down from the business and Mr Campbell would be taking over the club and licence.
Police sergeant Bilsdon said: "This seems to be a firm indication that Mr Campbell is still involved with Valentine. The fear is that although Mr Campbell may be named on the licences and the company documents, that in fact Valentine will be controlling the running of the business and the promotion of events in the background.
"Valentine, despite being the chair of pub watch, has behaved in a disreputable manner throughout his tenure as premises licence holder at Paparazzi.
Later in the report Mr Bilsdon added: "The constabulary will say that given Mr Valentine’s propensity to act in a dishonest manner and underhand way, he is not and will not be suitable to hold a premises licence as upholding the law is definitely low on his list of priorities.
The licensing subcommittee was due to decide the application yesterday (Thursday) but proceedings were adjourned until October 15 at the request of the applicant’s solicitor.
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