Sarah Clover, Kings Barrister specialising in licensing has obtained an extensive new premises licence for the historic former Carling Academy in Dale End, Birmingham city centre. The venue last closed its doors in 2013, but brothers Hitesh and Manoj Chauhan, with experienced DPS and consultant, David Elphick have taken it on to give it a new lease of life. Their ambitious plans will see this significant building restored to its former glories as a live gig venue that has previously seen the likes of Amy Winehouse, the Charlatans and the Arctic Monkeys. The newly minted Birmingham Forum will re-open after seven years to host live music concerts, pantomime and theatre, club nights and comedy, indoor sporting events, university balls and graduation ceremonies and even host auditions for popular talent shows such as  X Factor and Britain’s Got Talent.

The West Midlands Police put forward vigorous objections to the proposals in a bid to block the plans, and took the application to a hearing before the Birmingham City Council’s licensing sub-committee. Licensing officer, PC Abdool Rohomon presented a 300 page bundle to discredit the Chauhans, claiming that they were not credible, and that he had not been able to work with them since 2007. PC Rohomon highlighted an incident to the sub-committee that had taken place in one of the Chauhan’s premises in May 2016. The Chauhans currently hold licences for city centre venues The Q Club in Corporation Street, Monastery in High Street and The Lock in Gas Street. The West Midlands Police presented no incidents for any of those premises since 2016.

Barrister Sarah Clover, who represented the applicants told the sub-committee that the substance of the incidents listed in the Police bundle amounted to nothing more than: “He said, she said and they didn’t say”.

She added the Q Club incident in 2016 was resolved on appeal and the venue reopened while the committee at the time described it as an ‘isolated incident’.

She said: “There are some significant slurs on management competence in those papers which are not accepted and never have been.”

She said that she did not want to focus on the negatives and turn the hearing into a “review style fight”. In upbeat submissions, she said:  “This is a visionary and positive application for major premises. It is a very large and significant venue in Birmingham in the daytime and night-time economy.

“What the applicants are looking to do is exactly what you’d imagine with live gigs, live music, major artists, it’s for things like X Factor, Britain’s Got Talent, pantomimes, comedy shows and all of those sort of things that the premises were built for.

 “The gentlemen behind the application are experienced operators within the Birmingham night-time economy.

“This is a very important time for event spaces. Having spaces like this draws in major audiences and is a very important boost to a city like Birmingham”. She made reference to the forthcoming status of Coventry as City of Culture in 2021, and the Commonwealth Games, being hosted in Birmingham in 2022 and highlighted the advantages to these cities of having vibrant local places for visitors to experience.

She said: “Birmingham has got spaces but this one is sitting there growing cobwebs and there is no reason for that.”

PC Rohomon objected to the proposed opening hours of 6am for activities and 7am closure to the public, and suggested that the Forum “did not need to be open so long”, and that it should end activities and simultaneously close to the public at midnight through the week, and at 2am on Fridays and Saturdays. He presented five pages of proposed strict conditions, many of them to be controlled by the Police, to be placed on the licence if granted.

Miss Clover said that the applicants did not have to demonstrate “need” in order to justify the hours that they sought, and that it was for the Police as objectors to justify any reasons why the premises should be closed earlier.

After a five-hour hearing, the sub-committee granted the ambitious licence as applied for, including the 9am to 7am opening hours to the public.  The sub-committee did apply an extensive suite of conditions including amendments proposed by the licensee.

Designated Premises Supervisor, David Elphick [of David Elphick Training and Consultancy] said:

“We are pleased to be bringing this truly iconic venue back into the Birmingham entertainment scene and look forward to welcoming not only famous names and groups in the world of entertainment,but more importantly the people of Birmingham and beyond through both the venue and the training academy we will be opening . We commend Sarah Clover and her team for their exemplary work in the case”.

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