"We Aim to Please, Not to Sleaze"

Libertaire - no sign of pole-dancing at new venue

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Exterior of the Libertaire

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Libertaire, formerly the Captain Cook pub, has been the subject of much heated debate in Acton over the past few weeks. This heat was caused by the words 'pole dancing' and 'stripping' and '24-hour license' which appeared on the application at Ealing Council Licensing Department.

Since then, Gary Olivier has done his best to dispel anxieties, but the pole-dancing mention and memories of chaotic and unpleasant drunken scenes outside the Captain Cook have kept his application on the discussion forum for many weeks.

In a post on the W3 Forum, Gary said the request for licensing hours had been reduced and that the Pole-dancing and striptease were "an outright error". A most helpful Paul Kettle of Ealing Council Licensing Department told me that the application has indeed been changed.

According to Mr Kettle, the application is now for opening hours Monday-Thursday: 10am-3am (no change to the existing licensing hours for the premises); Friday and Saturday: 10am-4am (increase of one hour); Sunday: 10am-12am (increase of 3.5 hours).

The capacity for Libertaire is still under discussion with the fire brigade, but Ron and Gary told me they are no longer seeking to increase capacity for the building.

Striptease and pole dancing have been removed from the application altogether. Permission is sought for "performance of dance, to retain dance troupes, and for professional dancers eg burlesque shows and performances."

Further items stipulated in the application are for provision of door staff (at least 5), age policy of over 23 only and for smokers to be encouraged smoke outside the front of the building in a supervised smoking shelter. CCTV will be installed inside (5 cameras) and out (3 cameras, one in the alleyway to the rear).

Also, Libertaire will be working with a taxi company to encourage customers to vacate the premises as quickly, quietly and considerately as possible and their stewards will also encourage use of and direct patrons to public transport.

They are also intending to have a dedicated phone number for locals to use should they have any causes for concern.

Over 100 objections were received by Ealing Council to the original application and a hearing date for the amended application, which will be open to the public, has now been set for 7.00pm on Wednesday March 19th. Gary and Ron have written a long letter to everyone who objected which fully explains their intentions.

In the interests of anyone who wasn't able to go to Libertaire on Friday evening for a cheese and drinks reception, (and probably because we're just rather curious) we went to meet Gary and have a sneaky look around.

The whole place is being smartened up and there is very groovy wallpaper (a whisper of Vanilla and Anthony Bell) on the walls. There are also some extremely attractive and expensive-looking icicle-style light fittings above the bar in the front room. The back room is also completely refurbished with mirrors, a smart new floor, completely new and very posh loos and generally a no-expense-spared look to the whole establishment.

Gary, a South African, told me he has been associated with the Captain Cook and Club Uphoria since 1999. "But," he said, "the Antipodeans who used to frequent the Captain Cook don't seem to be around these days. Acton Town used to be a hub for them, but it doesn't seem to be any more."

The work on the building, which Gary says was badly in need of repair, has been financed jointly between Gary, his partner Ron Elliston and Enterprise Inns. "We really wanted to create as versatile a venue as possible. We are open to anything on this site."

Gary and Ron have booked the Drifters for Friday April 4th and Alexander O'Neil for April 11th. They intend to hire out the venue for corporate events, private parties and club nights. "We also really want to put ourselves on the map for live bands - somewhere they can come and provide good value entertainment."

They emphasize that they have good intentions as far as security is concerned. They talked of a membership system with photo id cards. Each cardholder would be liable for any guests they brought in to the club. Anyone drunk would not be allowed in. "We're trying to encourage people to come who won't binge drink," says Gary. "Obviously we can't promise that it won't ever happen, but we won't encourage it."

Ron Elliston joins the discussion to counter what he calls the "Spearmint Rhino Mark 3" rumours. He tells us: "I wouldn't want that on my doorstep." He admits that how the Libertaire eventually ends up is all about "who turns up and how considerate they are." However, they are mailshotting potential customers and want this venue to be 'high end'. "There's nothing like this in the area at all. I suppose the nearest thing is Soho House (High Road House) in Chiswick."

"Really," Ron tells us, "we're sad to have got off on the wrong foot and we aim to please, not to sleaze."

"Of course, there may be teething problems but we will take time to get it right. We really think that Acton is better off with this venue open rather than boarded up. We'll have to maintain it in order to make a success of it."

As we leave, we can't help noticing the chairs and light-fittings - definitely high end and undeniably cool and groovy.

Could be interesting times ahead on Acton High Street.

February 26, 2008