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HomeMore NewsRetropop bar for former Lounge 72 site in Hertfordshire

Retropop bar for former Lounge 72 site in Hertfordshire

A retropop bar owner will be able to serve alcohol in Stevenage once they open it – but only to punters aged at least 21.

Stevenage Borough Council has granted a premises licence for Rookery Yard at 70 High Street, a building which objectors said had a “chequered past”.

Dejan Radak, who applied for the music, dance and alcohol licence, was never involved with the previous occupier Lounge 72, his solicitor said.

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Councillors took away Lounge 72’s licence after what objectors described as “indecency, noise and even crime”.

They heard in early 2023 that the former venue had been the scene of a stabbing, sex acts in the rear garden caught on camera, and a 100-person brawl.

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Solicitor Jeremy Woodcraft, on behalf of Mr Radak, said the new retrobar “will be aimed at a more mature market”.

He said at a hearing on Thursday, March 28: “This is something Mr Radak has a great deal of experience in.”

Mr Woodcraft added music “from the 70s, 80s and 90s… would attract those of a more mature disposition”.

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But barrister Philip Kolvin KC, representing Cinnabar at 56-58 High Street, urged councillors to turn down the licensing application.

He said the shut-down former occupier “attracted a different sort of audience that was coming into Stevenage for a night”.

Mr Kolvin said: “My client is keen to see that audience is not attracted back.”

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He warned “Retropop for the over 30s down an alleyway in Stevenage” may not prove viable, so Mr Radak may need to diversify his business in the future.

The silk accused the applicant of not providing the authority with a sufficiently detailed business plan.

“For a sensitive application, sensitive premises and sensitive hours, there needs to be more,” Mr Kolvin said.

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“The applicant should come back when he has done the legwork.”

The premises comprises a restaurant area and a social dance space, which would have separate entrances.

Mr Radak had applied for a licence to serve alcohol in the venue between 11am and 3am daily. He also asked for permission to play music between 8am and 3am.

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In a written submission, a Hertfordshire Constabulary spokesperson said: “The timings requested are not conducive to the night-time economy of Stevenage High Street at this time, as there are currently two large premises open until 3am and there is not capacity to have a further late night licence in the High Street.

“The concerns by police – due to this being a ‘new venture’ and described as ‘being a social space’ – is that it appears experimental.”

They added: “Due to recent events experienced in the High Street, when three late-night venues closed at the same time, this may be repeated and cause a mass exodus out onto the public thoroughfare, which does not have the capacity to disperse crowds easily by public transport at that time.”

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Mr Woodcraft said there was “nothing really of any note” about Mr Radak’s ambition to start a new business.

He added it is “unlikely” Mr Radak would use the licence to its fullest extent.

“It’s not uncommon to start up a new business,” he said.

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“This is clearly a trade objection.

“There may be a business advantage to ensuring there’s not another competitor in the market on the High Street.”

Mr Woodcraft said he would accept a legally enforceable condition to refuse entry to customers aged under 21, “to nail [his] colours to the mast”.

A panel chaired by Cllr Claire Parris (Lab, St Nicholas) agreed to grant a licence with restrictions.

Panel members agreed to license the restaurant area for alcohol sales daily between 11am and 11pm.

Retrobar staff will be able to serve alcohol in the bar area between 7pm and midnight Sundays until Wednesdays, and between 7pm and 1am on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.

Events must wind up by half past midnight on Sundays until Wednesdays, and by 1.30am on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.

“After an initial period, the applicant might consider applying to extend the licence hours,” Cllr Parris said.

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