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East Oxford Social Club - more details of the stitch-up

- | 06.04.2008 01:52 | Culture | Free Spaces | Oxford

East Oxford Community Social Club is a social club run for and by its members, based in a local community centre for which it raises money. It's unique not just for the way it's run but also because of its diverse, inclusive and friendly atmosphere, cheap prices and availability as a community venue. Meanwhile the local cops are doing everything in their power to see that it closes.



The social club have called a Special General Meeting of the community association to challenge their decision to evict us. It will be on Friday 18th April, 6pm at East Oxford Community Centre. If you are a member of the community association (and all social club members automatically are) please come and lend us your support.


The following is from an email on the social club members' list; apologies for the lack of formatting:

this is a long story for those who want background facts, it is only a small
proportion of what could be told.

East Oxford Community Association Management Committee 12 Feb 2008 present 3
trustees (Sarah Lasenby, Catherine Gundry, Ben Beaumont) and 5 non-voters.
extract from minutes

"There was a complaint from a Princes Street resident that music was being
played in the Social Club until 2.30am at the weekend. The security confirmed
that they were here until that time. It was agreed that this is a breach of
their license and that the committee will issue them with a first written

comment on above by Ed Pope Treasurer East Oxford Community Social Club # this
refers to Sat Feb 9th when in fact we had a Temporary Event Notice for bar to
1.30 and music to 2am, security indeed left at 2.30 and EOCSC chair Julian
Coates was present and confirms that music ended at 2am. EOCA administrator
Claire Ford told me the complaint was made verbally by an elderly lady to a
cleaner at the Centre first thing Monday morning. Despite informing EOCA of
these facts we have had no apology or withdrawal of the written warning and
they still mentioned it to the police on Feb 27 long after we had assured them.

further extract from minutes of 12 Feb meeting

"Mary-Jane Sareva reported that the police visited the club on Wed 6th Feb and
arrested people who were in possession of controlled substances. Mary-Jane is
very concerned as the bar does not seem to be respecting the licensing laws.
The bar managers are still not consistent and the associations does not know
who they are. Sarah has informed that they must have a permanent Bar manager
employed by the end of March. It was agreed that the Social Club committee
should be sent a formal 1st written warning for staying open late and for
members being in possession of drugs. After that there would be a second
written warning, followed by notice of eviction. It was suggested that they
should invite nightsafe to help with the drug problems, and put up posters
explaining that people will be searched, and nightsafe or the police could be
in to conduct a search at any time. Also anyone found with drugs will be

comment by Ed Pope # EOCA sent us the written warning. They had not discussed
the matter with us first or attempted to do so. It was the first I had heard of
anyone being arrested on Feb 6th even though I was there behind the bar that
night and police Sgt Andy Barefield and Nightsafe manager Karen Crossan came to
the bar and shook my hand. We at once replied informing them of our TEN
(Temporary Event Notice) on Feb 9th. I e~mailed Sarah Lasenby saying that I
considered the sending of formal warnings without discussing it with us first
was a hostile act and in protest I withdrew the permission I had given her
previously at her request to open our bank statements before passing them on to
us. On Wed 27th Feb I was told of a rumour spread by the door staff at the club
that we would be closing after that weekend. I phoned the Licensing Department
of Oxford City Council the next day and was reassured that our license remained
in force. On 28 Feb Sarah Lasenby sent an e~mail to us with the following
comment followed by minutes of a meeting of which we had not been informed
beforehand let alone invited to. #

"I do feel that on reflection we should have invited the EOSC to attend the
meeting with Nightsafe but I really had no idea that we would be in the
situation we found ourselves.

EAST OXFORD SOCIAL CLUB MEETING Wed 27 Feb 2008, Present: Karen Crossan,
Nightsafe manager; Brian Cooper, Inspector East Oxford Police Team; Andy
Barefield, East Oxford police Sgt; Alex Bloomfield police; Mary-Jane Sareva;
Sarah Lasenby; Ben Beaumont; Gwen Devine, Community Safety Support Officer,
Oxford City Council.

BB requested a precise of the current situation with regards to the Social Club
and why the police had taken the decision to take the club premises certificate
for review with the licensing authority.
AB informed the group of a low key drug-dog inspection at the club on 6 Feb
2008 whereby the dog had indicated illegal substances on many members. The
police search 4 people with one being arrested and cautioned as having 6 bags
of cannabis on him. AB is still awaiting feedback from the drug dog handler as
to how many more people in the club were indicated on, as due to a lack of
resources they were unable to take more patrons out to be searched.
BC raised concerns on the numerous occasions when visiting the social club,
with the drug dog, drugs had been found on patrons or had been smoked inside
the club. On the last visit there was a strong smell of drugs when entering the
premises. BC also informed the group tests on the drug dog showed it had not
mistook the sage incense burners as an illegal substance. Another concern was a
member of the committee Mr Pope was seen serving behind the bar while all these
issues were ongoing"

comment by Ed Pope # I was indeed there that night though not serving drinks.
The bar manager Ed Owen had earlier informed me that the drug dogs were on
their way up the Cowley Road. I was not concerned as I assumed all our patrons
would be aware of this too. I did not notice a strong smell of drugs and was
confident that if there was anyone smoking drugs they would do it out in the
back yard. On a previous occasion last autumn the dog had indicated on 7 people
out of 20 there, they were all searched and none found in possession. That
happened to be the night we finished repainting the bar, and our chairman
thought it would be appropriate to burn sage sticks to help clear out any
lingering pre-smoking ban nicotine energies or particles. The smell was intense
and humans couldn't have smelt any drugs if they had been burnt there. Karen
Crossan wrote an e-mail to East Area Parliament types saying there was a strong
smell of cannabis in the bar that night, proving neither she nor her police
colleagues are very familiar with it as it smells quite different to sage. Of
course we've not burnt sage there again! We never suggested that the drug dog
could make such a mistake, only humans. As far as I know Feb 6th is the only
occasion police found drugs in the club, and there has been no smoking of any
kind inside the bar since the ban. The door staff informed me, when I asked
much later, that the person arrested was white, male and a member of the club
they but didn't know his name, and the police are not at liberty to disclose
it. the minutes of Feb 27 continue #

"It was reiterated that the police/Nightsafe and other responsible authorities
at the meeting in November had offered the Social Club support but this was
refused and to date there has been no contact to any of the aforementioned from
the Social Club. MJS, BB and SL all advised there had been an increase in
members within the Association, the social club was complying with the many
conditions of their license and the Association had also written a warning
letter to the Social Club re the running of the premises. The warning letter
related to a recent event that went on longer than permitted, therefore
breaching their conditions. They advised there was no specific Bar Manager to
take overall responsibility of the club and currently no-one is doing what they
should be doing. BC stated the lack of strong management of the club gave good
cause as to why the social club should be sent for review.

MJS, BB and SL proposed the following: 1. the introduction of an appropriate
Bar manager, franchised so independent to Association 2. Voluntary suspension
of social club activities until a bar manager/franchisee could be in situ 3.
Once the above was appointed there would be police/Nightsafe etc. to ensure
that all areas of concern were understood and advice and support would also be
given in regards to the running of the premises.

Agreed 1. Voluntary suspension of social club activities until Bar Manager in
place 2. Voluntary suspension of activities will begin midnight Sunday 2nd
March 2008. 3. Successful applicant for the Bar Manager's post to be CRB
checked and will have obtained a license by attending a course for Designated
Premises Supervisor. All to send relevant details to MJS, BB and SL. It was
confirmed that the trustees could implement a voluntary suspension of the
social club activities as the Association has jurisdiction over Social Club.

Following a comment by BB that they felt that there were a number of other
premises within the area who were much worse than the social club, BC advised
that there were a number of premises on Cowley Road that were also having
similar meetings with and were being dealt with in a variety of methods."

Ed Pope comments # I met with Sarah Lasenby and Ben Beaumont on Fri 29th Feb at
11am and said that as far as I could tell they did not have the jurisdiction
over the Social Club they claimed and the only power they had over us would be
to terminate our license with one month's notice with good reasons or two
month's notice amicably. They did not dispute this but have never yet
apologised for misleading the police over this or over the alleged license
breach on Feb 9th. One of our committe wrote to Inspector Brian Cooper giving
our best shot to arrange a talk but he replied as follows #

"Thames Valley Police will be taking the license for the Social Club to review.
We have repeatedly found that drugs are being used on the premises during
social club opening hours. This is unacceptable and we will seek a revocation
of that license. Unfortunately the time for talking is now over as this has
been going on since our meeting with the committee in November"

Ed Pope comments # As of today 31st March we still have not had review papers
served. A meeting was held on Mar 7th with several members of EOCA and EOCSC
committees, we were asked to go away and consider our position which we did at
a meeting on Mar 11th and decided that we would voluntarily surrender the
Social Club license on two conditions, one that its surrender would be at the
same time as a grant of a premises alcohol license to the Association, and the
other that this exchange was okayed by our members at an Annual General
Meeting. On Mar 12th EOCA had their management committee meeting at which I
believe a sub-committee was given the power to terminate our occupation license
depending on our offer. On Mar 14th EOCA and EOCSC met again and we put our
offer to them. They replied later that night by e-mail and letter as follows #

"We have carefully reviewed the points put to us by your committee members at
the two joint meetings on 7th and 14th March. We find that your points do not
convince us and we are particularly concerned about health and safety and
security issues. As a result the trustees have agreed that this letter to you
is a notice of termination of your occupation of the East Oxford Social Club,
to take effect within 28 days of 15th March 2008. Sarah Lasenby, Catherine
Gundry, Ben Beaumont."

Ed Pope comments # We have no idea to what health and safety and security
issues they refer. After a decision at a well attended EOCSC committee meeting
on Mar 21st we presented EOCA with a request for a Special General Meeting
signed by 22 members. This meeting should happen between Apr 9th and Apr 16th
with a quorum of 25 to consider whether EOCA should evict the Social Club and
related matters. We will let you know when it is as soon as we know. On Mar
29th our Annual General Meeting was attended by 67 people, all of whom I thank
for coming because that support has cheered me up no end. No decision was taken
on our offer of surrendering the license but we do not feel bound to it since
EOCA evicted us and we elected a large new committee on the understanding that
we would try to build bridges with EOCA and with the police and Nightsafe and
that having more active trustees could take us to a stronger position.
Meanwhile finding a suitable person with the relevant qualifications the police
require as bar manager would be very useful whether we retain the Social Club
license or whether the Association obtain a premises license. #