Licence bid for 4.30am events puts former science teacher at loggerheads with council officials

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A teacher-turned-businessman is at loggerheads with council environmental health officers over his bid to win a 4.30am entertainment licence for his Afro-Caribbean social club.

Bernard Alemanji, who used to teach science at Sharnbrook School, told a meeting this week that The Spot, in an industrial unit in Windsor Road, Bedford, had already held 11 late-night events without any complaint.

But his and his wife Prisca’s bid to win approval for 48 entertainment events running up to 4.30am on Friday and Saturday nights has run into opposition from Bedford Borough Council’s environmental health team.

Officials say that noise could affect up to 76 homes within 150 metres in Willow Road, Monmouth Close, Edinburgh Close and Broad Avenue.

“An absence of complaint does not mean an absence of disturbance,” said Katharine Painter, a team leader in environmental health.

But Frank Fender, the Alemanjis’ licensing agent said the business had held events in the suburban industrial estate “without incident, without concerns. There are no complaints.”

The events already held had attracted an average of between 150-200 people to birthday parties, and social and fundraising events, the licensing sub-committee heard on Tuesday (April 13).

Mr Alemanji told the committee that he was in tears as he had found himself defending his business instead of mourning the death of his father in Cameroon.

He said: “You will not see an Afro-Caribbean in the pub at 5 o’clock, they work hard and come out very late in the night to enjoy themselves.”

And Mr Fender added: “It is not everybody’s cup of tea but we do have to recognise that there are some sections of society who actually enjoy going out later.”

The meeting heard that the Alemanjis had received a loan in excess of £100,000 to convert the former industrial unit.

But they and Mr Fender believed being made to spend about £4,000 on an acoustic report and a noise limiter would impose disproportionate costs on the business.

Mr Alemanji said they were confident that the business would not cause a nuisance because they had tested loud noise and found it not to be a problem.

But Miss Painter said the council had not been involved in those tests and had not seen a technical report.

Miss Painter also wanted to limit the business to one late night event per month.

But Mr Alemanji claimed that this would be “very unfair” and would “knock us out of business even before we start.”

The committee also heard that advice received from building control does not mean that a building would be able to stop noise, which needs specialist action.

Mr Fender claimed that the environmental health department had not moved its stance in negotiations.

But Miss Painter said it would be advisable for businesses to sort out issues at the start because it would avoid higher costs in the long run.

The sub committee’s decision is set to be announced within five working days on the council’s website.

by David Tooley
Local Democracy Reporter

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