Camden’s historic Electric Ballroom ‘facing difficult future’ – prompting team to ask for bigger alcohol licence

A party inside the Electric Ballroom. Photograph: Nicor / Wikicommons

An iconic Camden music venue graced by the likes of Paul McCartney and Prince is asking to sell alcohol later at weekends to help it become more resilient post-pandemic.

The Electric Ballroom started life as an Irish club over 75 years ago and has hosted musical greats over the decades, as well as club nights.

The Camden High Street venue has asked to serve alcohol for an extra hour and a half on Fridays and Saturdays.

It currently serves alcohol until 3am on Mondays to Saturdays and until 2am on Sundays. It has asked to serve alcohol until 4.30am on Fridays and Saturdays to help business.

It has already had two temporary event licences with the extra hours, without any problems.

The Ballroom proposes cutting the sales of alcohol by an hour on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays instead.

Managers said in their application that they want the change because “stated frankly, the venue is now facing a difficult future since Covid-19”.

They said they have the highest ratable value for any licensed premises in Camden.

This means “there would be no net increase in sale of alcohol at the venue”.

The extra hours could help the changes in nightlife after the pandemic, they said.

“The post-Covid world has affected some of the longer running club nights at the venue. The newer club promoters want a greater flexibility to have slightly longer hours.”

The team is also asking to be allowed to have an extra 400 customers on busier nights to attract new promoters. They said club nights are “rarely at capacity”.

It currently has a capacity of 1,200 people.

It has a “a robust operating schedule and is run to highest standards” and they “have years of experience of running a licensed venue in Camden so are aware of how to manage a premises within Camden’s unique cultural environment.”

They have also offered to look at the current licence conditions and update them if needed.

Their licence granted in 2005 is so old and outdated that they told the committee “we doubt any current officers in the licensing team were in post” when some of the conditions used.

Police said they were concerned about the application as the night spot is near an area “often littered with drug dealers, openly offering a variety of drugs”.

They highlighted violence connected with drug dealing and street robberies in Camden Town late at night.

“These issues can be amplified when the hours are extended, the people leaving the venue are more likely to have a higher level of intoxication leaving them more vulnerable to those who would take advantage,” according to a report by PC Dominic Hallam from the Camden licensing team.

Promoter Alan Day has written to support the application.

With upcoming shows for Terrorvision and Fear Factory at the venue, he said it is “one of my favourite venues in the UK for its capacity” and an “important stepping stone” for bands before they play at theatres and arenas.

Camden’s licensing committee will discuss the application on 7 September.

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