Later drinking times to help club plan for future

RAISE A GLASS: Members of Northcroft Social Club in Sudbury can now drink at the venue for longer.
RAISE A GLASS: Members of Northcroft Social Club in Sudbury can now drink at the venue for longer.

A Sudbury social club – stripped of its premises licence two years ago – has been given permission to extend its opening hours.

Northcroft Social Club’s request to play late-night music was, however, turned down.

A licensing sub-committee at Babergh District Council met on Friday to discuss the application, which residents close to the club in The Croft had said would return them to a “life of misery”.

Speaking at the hearing, Richard Mower, from The Croft, said he accepted that club chairman Eddie Brown had done a “magnificent job” since taking up the role 18 months ago, but he felt opening until 12.30am throughout the week and 1.30am on Fridays and Saturdays was unnecessary.

“I cannot understand the need for the extension,” said Mr Mower.

“It is an attempt to lure younger members now that Easterns nightclub appears to have closed. When young people used the club in the past, they urinated in the street, threw beer bottles and made our lives a misery.

“Should the licence be granted, we would go back to a nightmare scenario.”

The club, which has more than 260 members, had its premises licence certificate withdrawn in May 2012 after a series of breaches. It was reinstated later in the year, subject to a raft of conditions, when Mr Brown took over.

Mr Brown said the club had stuck to this agreement, investing more than £50,000 to restrict excessive noise coming from the building and tightening guidelines for members.

He said the upstairs function room, which was associated with noise problems and resulted in neighbour Antony Gilham sleeping in his bathroom on a portable bed, had been leased to town charity The Befriending Scheme.

“We have had 18 months of impeccable behaviour and have worked hard not to return to the bad old days,” said Mr Brown.

“We do not want to turn the club into a den of iniquity and have made a promise to residents that their lives will not be blighted.”

Mr Brown said longer opening times were needed to compete with other pubs in the town and generate £30,000 to go towards improving the club’s toilets and disabled facilities.

Joanna Hart, an environmental officer for the council, said although it was clear the club had made positive changes, it had not carried out an official noise trial, a condition it had agreed to, while an update of the club’s rules had not been received.

“I still feel this application is premature,” she said.

Mr Brown said the club’s committee was looking to push through rule changes, but had faced opposition from some members. He said he was hopeful the situation would soon be resolved.

The committee unanimously rejected proposals to hold music events at the club, but agreed alcohol could be served until midnight from Monday to Thursday and till 12.30am on Fridays and Saturdays. The club will close 30 minutes after last orders.