Libertaire Polishes Up Its Act-on

As Council sub-committee grants license with concessions

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At a hearing of Ealing Council's licensing sub-committee chaired by Cllr Ian Potts and attended by approximately 35 residents, Libertaire (on the site of the former Captain Cook pub) was granted a license to operate with many restrictions put into place by the Council.

The meeting started at 7.00pm and Cllr Potts started by saying that he would be terminating the proceedings at 10.00pm. About 20 local residents had asked to speak against the increase in licensing hours, but in the event many did not attend the meeting. By 9.00pm everyone had had their say and Council officials were able to deliver their final decision approximately 30 minutes later.

Many concessions to concerns brought up by local residents, Police licensing officer Sgt Nigel Charlton, Mr Jess Murray, Senior Environmental Health Officer at Ealing Council were given by the two men running this soon-to-be-launched new venue - Operations Manager Gary Olivier and Creative Director and Entertainment Consultant Ron Elliston.

Cllr Yvonne Johnson of South Acton ward asked Mr Olivier and Mr Elliston what sort of clientele they were hoping to attract to Libertaire. He replied: "We hope to attract the top end of local residents and plan something quite special and unique at this venue. We want to raise the level for quality of entertainment in the area."

Cllr Johnson went on to say that residents of Acton "don't want yet another drinking club in Acton with a possible increase in crime and disorder problems, parking problems and possibly unsuitable entertainment at all hours of the day when children can see what is going on."

Mr Elliston assured her that no one would be able to see in, but that the sorts of entertainments which were planned - including sword swallowing, escapology and 'Gipsy Rose Lee' - would not cause a problem. He also stressed that there would be no dancing entertainment in the day time and that dancing would be restricted to after 7pm only. During the daytime, it is planned that Libertaire would host corporate style events and christenings. (Some people in the audience made noises which can only be described as snorts of disbelief at this point.)

Concerns were raised, particularly by residents close by, about the levels of noise from extractor fans and music which might be expected by residents in Gloucester Road. Mr Olivier said that no structural changes had been made to the building but, he said, "if noise levels are higher than before we will have them regulated." He also said that he would be consulting correction companies to advise him on noise leakage and that residents might want to be involved with this process.

Sgt Nigel Charlton, who has had a lengthy and complex corresondence with Mr Olivier and Mr Elliston - during which he obtained numerous concessions from them on CCTV provision, numbers of customers allowed to be smoking outside, drinks banned from being taken outside, number of people allowed in the venue at any one time, omission of references to pole-dancing and striptease, marshalls to patrol outside and many others.

Cllr Harvey Rose (Southfield Ward) expressed concerns about people being attracted to the venue from outside Acton and poor public transport. He said "This venue is in the wrong place and would halt improvements to the area."

There was concern from residents that Libertaire were asking for a late license so that they would be the latest closing venue on Acton High St, but Mr Elliston insisted that the clientele they hope to attract is a "totally different customer from the one who would go to the Redback."

Others raised questions about parking - already a problem on Acton High Street - and Mr Olivier and Mr Elliston are currently investigating possible parking venues with a marshall to be in attendance.

Various objectors spoke against the application, accusing Mr Elliston and Mr Olivier of "whitewash" and insisting there would be lapdancing at Libertaire, which would lead to an increase in sexual assaults and rape in Acton. They expressed their doubts about the promises given and gave voice to worries about customers leaving and causing problems, and overcrowding outside the club. David Scott said: "You start with the Drifters, [the Drifters will be performing on Libertaire's opening night] but where are you going to end?"

Local Resident Philip Taylor, who is on the board of Action Acton (but not speaking on behalf of the local regeneration charity) said that Acton residents like him have worked hard "to improve this place. People now talk with pride about Acton. I'm all for people following their dreams, but how are you going to ensure this venue doesn't become a Trojan horse? 1-2 years down the line this could become a public nuisance. We want a better life and a better place to live in."

Cllr Potts stressed to everyone that if the conditions of the license are not met, Ealing Council will call for a license review. He also pointed out that "if we don't agree a new license for Libertaire, we will have to give them the old one which means that they are allowed 600 customers at any one time instead of 470, with none of the many concessions which we have obtained from the current management."

The final decision means that Libertaire will be allowed the following opening hours:

Mon-Thurs 10.00am-2.30am (sale of alcohol and late night refreshment until 2.00am)
Friday/Saturday 10.00am-3.30am (late night alcohol etc until 3.00am)
Sunday 10.00am-12 (late night alcohol etc until 11.30pm).

This amounts to a reduction in Mon-Thurs hours on the existing license and an increase of 1 hour on Fridays and Saturdays and 1.5 hours Sundays.

Mr Olivier has said: "I think the result is a good one in terms of residents and ourselves as compromises were reached on both sides. The existing licence has not been changed drastically however restrictions have been put into place in order to control how the venue is operated in accordance with the residents and licensing authorities concerns."

Residents will no doubt be watching this venue closely - and possibly even venturing inside it - to see what the next few months bring.

March 20, 2008