Kettering nightclub loses appeal after being stripped of licence

Magistrates dismissed their bid to overturn the decision

Friday, 23rd April 2021, 9:55 am
Updated Friday, 23rd April 2021, 10:04 am
Aqua in Gold Street.

A Kettering nightclub which had its licence revoked after an investigation into a Covid breach has lost an appeal against a council's decision.

Aqua in Gold Street was shut down last summer after opening their upstairs lounge in July, claiming they were opening 'as a cocktail bar', despite emergency Covid-19 powers at the time specifically banning nightclubs from opening even if music and dancing wasn't on offer.

An investigation by what was then Kettering Council found further issues with the premises not in control of the licensee, Rockafellas Limited, with the local authority deciding to strip the nightclub of its premises licence.

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Rockafellas Limited appealed that decision, citing that they believed the decision was wrong, and a hearing was scheduled at Wellingborough Magistrates' Court last week.

But justices dismissed the appeal, refusing to adjourn the case because nobody from Rockafellas turned up and nothing had been heard from them.

Magistrates ruled Rockafellas would have to pay £200 in costs.

At a licensing hearing that year a Kettering Council committee was told that Aqua's licence had been transferred to Rockafellas Limited in February 2018 and at the time Gentian Talla was their sole director. He was recorded as Aqua's designated premises supervisor (DPS), but Companies House records showed that he ceased to be a person with significant control of Rockafellas in March 2020.

The council served the Covid prohibition notice on Rockafellas on August 5 and, having had no response to the warning letter, hand-delivered the letter to the home of Mr Talla, as the club's DPS, in Northampton.

But the following day the council received a call from a man "with an eastern European accent" who said his name was Victor and asked to speak about the notice served on Aqua.

Because there was no Victor on the premises licence, or evidence of the name having any relation to Rockafellas, a council officer declined the call and Victor hung up. The council believed it was Victor Tavarnickis from Stereo nightclub in Northampton's Bridge Street.

Then, 90 minutes later, the council received an email which led to further questions.

It was signed off with "Regarding (sic) Gentian Talla" but was sent from an email address named Dainis Tolvaisa, the licensee and proprietor of Stereo.

Kettering Council's licensing committee was told by Aqua's legal representative that Mr Tolvaisa and Mr Talla had worked together in the licencing trade for 10 years and that Mr Talla was still the designated premises supervisor and that he held an advance qualification.

Councillors ruled Aqua's actions were so serious they should lose their licence.

A decision notice, published by the council, said: "The committee was concerned by the licensee’s denial of responsibility, the breaking of the law and the belief he was not responsible for the consequences. The committee was also appalled by the suggestion that misbehaviour in a licensed premises is not the responsibility of the DPS despite the DPS being responsible for the day to day running of the premises."

The notice added: "The management of the premises fell below the high standards expected of it as a licensed premises.

"There had been a concerning lack of engagement with the council and lack of acceptance of responsibility for actions.

"The actions of Mr Tolvaisa and the DPS were wholly irresponsible, unacceptable and clearly undermined the licensing objective."