Crime-plagued bar’s 79-hour opening bid

Empireram'Empire Bar
Empireram'Empire Bar

A CITY centre bar plagued by gangs and violence has applied for extensions to its drinking licence to allow it to stay open for 79 hours continuously over the Easter and Royal wedding Bank Holiday weekends.

Empire Bar, in Charter Square, submitted separate applications for temporary event notices asking to remain open and serve alcohol continuously over both weekends from Thursday night until 5am on Monday morning.

The Easter request has already been refused, and the Royal Wedding application will go before the board next week.

The venue had its licence temporarily suspended in January after a series of incidents including a 17-year-old being stabbed on Christmas Eve and drug dealing witnessed by undercover police.

Sheffield Council’s licensing board - which issued the sanction - was concerned customers included members of Sheffield’s gangland scene, who were visiting the bar following the closure of the nearby Niche nightclub.

David Hezcko, bar owner, was told he could only reopen if he co-operated with police, found a new premises supervisor, improved security, replaced CCTV cameras and implemented a drugs seizure and recording policy.

Progress has been made since, but police said they were concerned that relaxing licensing regulations could lead to crime and disorder returning to the premises.

A Sheffield Council spokesman said of the Easter application: “The licensing board turned down the temporary event notice for the Empire Bar in view of the objections raised by the police.

“It was felt by members that, although the operation of the bar has improved lately, it was too soon to grant an extension of this kind.”

The Royal Wedding weekend application will be considered at a licensing board hearing on Tuesday and police have again raised objections.

A report on behalf of Chief Constable Med Hughes said: “South Yorkshire Police believe that if the temporary events were to go ahead, crime and disorder would occur due to the history of the premises.

“There have been no major issues with the Empire Bar.

“Police are of the opinion that the new conditions attached to the licence are clearly working. If a temporary event notice were to go ahead whereby the conditions were not applicable, this may result in crime and disorder once again at the premises.”

Police added they also plan to object to an application to permanently extend Empire Bar’s opening hours and relax some licence conditions.

A date has yet to be set for when this application will be considered.

Empire Bar’s premises supervisor Nick Randle was unavailable for comment.