Torquay harbour traders: "We've had enough!"
LEADING businessman James Eyre says he has lost faith in Torbay after a £250,000 legal row over his busy harbourside night spot.
Mr Eyre, managing director and founder of Lifestyle Group, claims the money he put into the Mambos licence battle could have been used to create another business in the Bay and 20 full-time jobs.
It comes as cafe and bar owners just around the corner in Vaughan Parade and Torwood Street have threatened to rebel against possible big increases in council permit fees to put tables and chairs outside their businesses.
Mr Eyre said that after being forced to close the bar last summer over safety concerns and fighting to vary stringent licensing conditions he has put any future investment plans for the resort on hold.
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Mr Eyre said: "After recent events, we need to have more confidence in the future before making any more investment in Torquay.
"This isn't just about the future of Mambo, it's about the whole future of Torquay and the good work the English Riviera Tourism Company has done for the whole Bay."
Lifestyle Group employs up to 200 people at its nine themed bars and licensed restaurants in the South West, including Mambo, the Apple and Parrot cider bar, Tiger Bills restaurant and Fast Eddie's American pool hall in Torquay. Its Tiger Bill's franchise has just launched nationally.
The company fought an appeal at a day-long court hearing last month against six of 50 licence conditions that they claimed were 'micro-managing' its Mambo business.
The conditions were imposed last June after a three-week booze ban on the eve of the Jubilee weekend over safety concerns.
The fast-track review on the premises licence was brought last year by police after two serious glassings a week apart in May.
The firm has admitted it made mistakes. It has made improvements and crime at the premises has dropped.
Magistrates decided to allow the venue to retain its centrepiece U-shaped bar — seen by police as a pinch point for trouble.
It can reduce the number of door staff, if necessary, on quieter nights when some floors are closed.
But the balcony is to be used for smoking only after midnight during weeknights.
The capacity of the first floor was also reduced by 20 people.
Mr Eyre said the outcome was 'a victory for common sense', but he criticised the cost to the council taxpayer and to his business.
The outcome, however, has been praised by Superintendent Jim Nye, Police Commander for South Devon, who said it will help ensure all licensed premises in Torbay act responsibly and provide a safe place for the public to enjoy a night out.
He said: "The council, police and licensees have worked very hard to improve the image of the harbourside, culminating in the award of the Purple Flag. This outcome will ensure Mambo operates in a professional manner going forwards, and the management take their responsibilities more seriously."
Mr Eyre praised the police for their constructive and professional approach and English Riviera Tourism Company who are raising the profile of the Bay.
But he was critical of the reduction of the police licensing officer role to part-time.
He said: "It is an obstacle to the Bay's success and commercial survival. There is a massive void in the control, support and advice structure to the night time economy."
Torbay Council has welcomed the appeal outcome.
They say it vindicated the original decision of its licensing committee.