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Area nightclub to rebrand after licence threat
Area nightclub in Watford will close down for two months and reopen as a new venue aimed at an older clientele.
Senior managers in charge of the club, in The Parade, agreed to rebrand and accept other operating restrictions after police moved to have Area stripped of its licence.
The move came after officers produced a report cataloguing problems and violence at the club over the past year.
However at a meeting of Watford Borough Council’s licensing sub committee today police officers indicated they would be happy for the club to continue trading if it met the conditions it wanted.
Politicians on the committee backed the compromise, which saves the town’s second largest club from losing its licence.
At the hearing Gary Grant, a barrister representing Hertfordshire Constabulary, said the force had a simple objective: to make Watford town centre a safer place.
He said venues that obstructed this aim or “put short term profit before the safety of the public” would not be tolerated.
The three councillors on the committee were told the police had found a number of problems at Area such as fights where clubbers were “bottled” and underage drinkers being “paralytic” there.
Mr Grant said there had also been allegations that emergency exits had been chained shut while it was operating.
He added: “We will be watching this venue like a hawk and expect it to improve and improve drastically.”
Representatives for the club said senior management in Area’s parent company, Gatecrasher, had not been made aware of the problems and that its manager had since been suspended.
Gerald Gouriet QC, speaking on behalf of Area, said: “It is not attractive to put all the blame on one individual, but obviously it is perfectly apparent a considerable proportion of the blame in this case is to be pinned on that named individual.”
The panel was told the club’s new manager, Neil Jennings, had a proven track record of running clubs well and other improvements had been made such as the installation of a new CCTV system.
Mr Gouriet said the name of the new rebranded club had not been decided yet, but it would be marketed at older people.
“It is possible to brand Area so that younger people between 18 and 25, who cause a lot of the trouble, are less interested in the club,” he added.
During questioning from the licensing committee, independent councillor Malcolm Meerabux expressed particular concern about the allegation that exits had been chained shut.
Liberal Democrat Jan Brown told senior managers at Gatecrasher she was unimpressed with their excuse that the problems at the club were down to the manager.
She said: “President Harry Truman had a sign on his desk saying ‘the buck stops here’, you should have known.”
Keith Crout, also a Liberal Democrat, wanted to know more about the type of music and DJs the club usually played, adding it could affect the clientele it attracted.
He was told Area was a “top 40 club” that played mainstream hits rather than alternative or lesser-known artists.
In the end the panel accepted the new conditions the police and club had agreed upon.
The councillors also refused a request from Area to start its two month closure immediately, meaning it would be open in time for Christmas. The club will instead close as Area in 21 days.
Among the other conditions placed on the club were that alcohol sales end at 2am and it closes at 2.30am except on Sundays when it is to close at 11pm.
No glass is to be used in the club except champagne bottles in the VIP area and the smoking area is to be limited to 50 people and become a no drinks area.