Police oppose 2am licence for new bar in Weston over links to criminals

The Bison Bar in Weston

The Bison Bar in Weston - Credit: Google Street View

Police are opposing a 2am licence for a new bar in Weston - amid claims of links to known criminals. 

Inspector Graeme Hall said officers suspect applicant Jonathan Lawrence would not be the sole operator of Bison Bar and that Adam Clarke – jailed for six years in 2016 for his involvement in the illegal supply of drugs – and his associates remain involved. 

He also raised concerns about a CCTV blind spot on the rear of the Oxford Street venue he said could be used for the uncontrolled movement of drugs and offensive weapons. 

The police have urged North Somerset Council’s licensing hearing to throw out the application when members meet next week. 

Insp Hall said in his published objection: “It was put to Mr Lawrence that the police had been informed that the person behind the premise and operation was an Adam Clarke and his associates, a convicted Class A drug supplier. 

“He replied that he used to be but he bumped into Adam Clarke about three weeks ago in town and that he offered to take the premise on, which Mr Clarke agreed to, and that he would be the sole owner.”

Despite the assurance, Insp Hall’s report said Mr Clarke had recently been seen entering the proposed 230-capacity venue and in the area several times, so the police suspect he and his associates remain involved. 

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Unusually, the application proposes a condition specifically naming Mr Clarke and says he “shall have no active part in the management of the premises, or any business operating from the premises and are excluded from these premises”.

It also refers to Jason Libby, who pleaded guilty in 2018 to grievous bodily harm after a fight outside Ella’s Bar in Weston, that the judge said left the street looking like a “battlefield”. 

Insp Hall went on to say Bison Bar’s CCTV system was not fit for purpose because there were numerous blind spots, including at the rear fire exit, adding: “Not only is such an area high risk for disorder occurring but access in and out of the venue for customers and illegal items such as drugs and offensive weapons would be totally uncontrolled. When this was raised to Mr Lawrence he stated he needed to add additional cameras.”

The property was a nightclub before it reopened as District 23 in 2017 but Insp Hall said it was shut down within weeks after issues and police concerns. 

It sits in a zone where applicants have to demonstrate a new licensed venue will not add to the cumulative impact already being experienced. 

Insp Hall said Mr Lawrence had failed to do so, adding: “This is of particular relevance at this time as the town centre of Weston-Super-Mare is experiencing high levels of night time economy-related crime and disorder which the police and partnership agencies are attempting to address. 

“Any additional late-night venues where police have concerns around the proposal have significant potential to contribute towards this problem.” 

Mr Lawrence was already known to the police licensing team as the co-owner of the Red Shadow lap dancing bar. Insp Hall’s objection said a serious allegation had been made against the applicant by one of the dancers in 2018 and he had two convictions for drink driving. 

He added: “The police propose that these incidents demonstrate a pattern of behaviour which is not consistent with the requirements for a premise license holder to promote the licensing objectives particularly around crime and disorder and public safety. 

“The police therefore request that the committee refuse this application and have concerns that additional or amended conditions will not be sufficient to restore confidence that the granting of this license will not lead to additional cumulative impact.”

A member of the public who objected – and asked for their name to be withheld due to fear of retribution – claimed the venue was owned by Mr Clarke and he had offered “large amounts of money” to anyone who could secure a licence for what would become a “den of iniquity”. 

Opening daily at 11am, the original application was to close at 4am but after concerns were raised that was brought forward to 2am on Fridays and Saturdays and midnight from Sunday to Thursday. 

The objector said the business would add to the disturbance for neighbouring residents. 

The licensing subcommittee will consider the application on January 20.