Brighton Racecourse catering plans have been given a boost after the venue was granted a drinks license by the council.
The license will allow drinks to be served from 10 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. daily, with up to 18 nightly events per year when the grade II* listed venue can remain open until 2 a.m.
Matsim Properties, the family business that owns the racecourse, in Middle Street, Brighton, has applied to Brighton and Hove City Council for a license as part of its wider business plan.
The company has also filed a planning application with the town hall to restore, renovate and expand the place, adding an “apart-hotel”, a restaurant or café and bars and offices.
The centerpiece of the application is the creation of a “multi-format stage space” – respecting the history of the 19th century building.
But Matsim said a drinks license was essential to ensure the plans would be financially viable.
The license covers the proposed public bar and restaurant, a private club for members and an arts club as well as a planned outdoor terrace.
Matsim told the board that one of the managers, Simon Lambor, 32, would be the “designated premises supervisor”, with day-to-day responsibility for beverage sales at the venue.
He attended a council licensing committee hearing last week with his father Andrew Lambor, 66, another company director.
They were intended to reassure councilors as the racecourse is at the heart of an area which the council has designated as a ‘cumulative impact zone’ (ZIC) where stricter permitting rules apply.
The stricter rules reflect the council’s aim of trying to reduce the high levels of crime and disorder in the area.
Despite these issues, Sussex Police did not object to Matsim’s license application.
The council’s licensing committee heard that the company spent a year working with the council’s licensing force and team on draft license terms before submitting its application.
Sussex Police licensing officer Claire Abdulkader told the licensing committee the venue was in the Regency area, which had the highest level of serious violent crime in all of Sussex.
The regency ward accounted for more than 6% of all violent crime handled by Sussex Police in 2020-21.
The board’s decision letter said the Licensing Committee considered the location of the venue – within the CIZ.
But the letter said: “The panel shares the view of the responsible authorities that this request is unique and constitutes exceptional circumstances in relation to our policy on cumulative impact insofar as alcohol is incidental to the exploitation. premises as a restored place of entertainment.”
The licensing panel consisted of three advisers – Dee Simson, Kate Knight and Carol Theobald.
The Hippodrome, designed by architect Frank Matcham, was an ice rink when it opened in 1897, 125 years ago. It became a circus, then a theater and later a bingo hall, closing in 2006.
Brighton-born comedian Max Miller was one of the famous names to appear at the Hippodrome during its six decades as a variety theater.
Other famous artists include Harry Houdini, Gracie Fields, Laurel and Hardy, Sammy Davis Jr – and a young Charlie Chaplin during his time with impresario Fred Karno.
Actors Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh have both performed at the Hippodrome, with Olivier making his professional stage debut there – and falling on his first stage appearance.
Later pop groups and singers appeared including Cliff Richard, Dusty Springfield, The Beatles, Rolling Stones and The Who.
There has been talk of the venue reopening as soon as 2024 – in an ideal world – with a concert by one of Brighton’s biggest modern stars, Fatboy Slim.
Matsim recently said: “Subject to obtaining planning permission quickly, we aim to open the main entertainment venue by November 24, 2024, exactly 60 years after it closed.
“How wonderful it would be to get the Rolling Stones or Paul McCartney to open the venue 60 years after they last played there.”