Exeter bar plans receive 'devastating blow'

-Credit: (Image: Mary Stenson/DevonLive)
-Credit: (Image: Mary Stenson/DevonLive)

An Exeter business owner is back to square one after plans to re-open their bar in a new location fell through. A new premises had been secured but the owner says the landlord has had a change of heart.

Damien Sluman has been vowing to re-open his bar The Arcade ever since it closed on Fore Street in October 2023. The premises suffered significant water damage during heavy rain in September 2023 and it was estimated that repairs could take up to a year.

A series of updates have since been posted to The Arcade Exeter Facebook page as Damien went on the hunt for a new location. In February, he announced that he had found a new site in the city centre but kept the exact location under wraps while he finalised the move.

Several weeks later, Exeter City Council's public register of premises licence applications revealed that Damien had applied for a new premises licence at the former Ebdons Refreshments on Sidwell Street. The site has been empty since Ebdons closed in November 2022 due to rising bills.

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The application for a new premises licence was discussed by Exeter City Council's Licensing Sub-Committee at a meeting on May 23. Prior to the meeting, both Devon & Cornwall Police and Environmental Health had raised concerns about the application.

Devon & Cornwall Police's Alcohol Licensing Officer was concerned about the proposed opening hours of 10am to 4:30 on Fridays and Saturdays and 10am to 3:30 on every other day. They said: "Sidwell Street sits within the PSPO and CIA and has a rather high rate of crime, disorder, and ASB due in part to the high number of street attached drinkers."

They said that they had been in touch with Damien and had come to the agreement with the bar that last alcohol orders would be taken half an hour before closing time on Fridays and Saturdays and that there would be two door staff on Friday and Saturday nights after 10pm.

Environmental Health said it was concerned about live and recorded music being played until the early hours of the morning and causing a "public nuisance for residents who live within the city centre." They were also concerned about "nuisance patrons using the outside seating."

A number of alterations were suggested, including the need for a Pavement Café Licence, the outdoor seating only being used until 9pm and keeping doors and windows closed.

In an announcement last week, Damien said that he had finally removed "all the relevant red tape" on the site but that the landlord had changed their mind and decided to grant a lease to another business. Despite the "devastating blow", he says he is still hoping to re-open The Arcade.

Writing on Facebook, he said: "Well on the list of announcements I don't want to be making I think this is fairly near the top.

"After months and months of fighting tooth and nail to get a licence and have all the relevant red tape sorted, we have been told by the landlord thanks for licencing my venue, we're now throwing you to one side and giving the site to someone else.

"Obviously having been working all hours since November to get this site ready and deal with the mountains of red tape and regulations we have had to deal with, this is a devastating blow to myself and has left me physically, mentally and emotionally drained.

"As it stands, I shall be meeting with a new potential landlord on Monday to discuss a new site for later in the year. So obviously if there is radio silence for a while we are quite literally starting all over again."