Doncaster barbershop owner in row with council over plans for 'speak-easy' bar with burlesque and poker nights

Owner of The Gentleman's Retreat, James Herrington says he will appeal the condition imposed on his alcohol license.
Owner of The Gentleman's Retreat, James Herrington says he will appeal the condition imposed on his alcohol license.
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A Doncaster barbershop owner hoping to extend his business to include a speak-easy style bar, where poker games and burlesque nights would be held, says he feels he is being victimised after the council ruled he could only be granted an alcohol license if under 18s were banned from the premises.

Owner of the Gentlemen’s Retreat in Bawtry, James Herrington says his plans to transform his 1920s style barber-shop into an establishment that would also include a tattoo parlour, and a bar where burlesque, poker and over 18s film nights would be held, have been scuppered by the condition included on his license.

Mr Herrington was awarded the license at a meeting on Monday, when members of Doncaster Council’s Licensing Committee said it could only be granted on the condition that no under 18s would be allowed on the premises.

The decision came after councillors representing Bawtry raised a number of concerns during the meeting, including worries over ‘child-safety’ if under 18s were to be allowed on a premises where alcohol was served and burlesque nights were held.

Town councillor David Kirkham told The Free Press “One of the things that needs to be considered when a license is given is child-safety and we were worried that while Mr Herrington says that the burlesque nights would be held in the bar it is only about 30 square metres big so it would spill out into the lounge where children could go.

“They have a lot of wedding parties so things like burlesque dancing and poker games could well be taking place during the day.”

Mr Kirkham says councillors also raised concerns over excessive noise, littering and concerns that plans for loyalty schemes at the bar would encourage binge drinking.

Mr Herrington, whose business has operated from the same premises for the last eight years, says he plans to appeal the decision and will ‘sit on’ his alcohol license for now.

He said: “We have a lot of apprentices here, that we train up, and a lot of them are under 18. And we have a lot of boys who might come for their first haircuts here or might come with their dads. We didn’t want to close our doors to our staff or our younger customers whose custom we value.

"Doncaster Council say they're for apprentices, and businesses that create apprenticeships, but then they've made a decision that they know would lead to me sacking apprentices. Which is not something I want to be doing.

“I do feel like I’ve been victimised because things that don’t need to be included within the proposal were such as the burlesque nights, which you don’t need a license for. Same with the poker nights.

"Child-safety would never have been an issue because the bar wouldn’t be open at the same time as the barbershop, and things like the burlesque nights would be held on members-only nights at the bar. They would be completely separate.

"There has been some suggestion that some of the entertainment we would be offering would be seedy, but in-terms of the films all we wanted was to be able to do things like having James Bond nights, and things like that. I think burlesque dancing is an art form, that is all about suggestion.

"The burlesque nights are only a small part of what we want to do - we want to offer a unique experience and have things like taylor nights, where men can be measured up for a suits, and gin nights.

"I like the idea of a speak-easy feel, and there would be certain places in the bar that you could only get to with a passcode. We already have customers coming from Leeds and Huddersfield because we do offer something a bit different - and this would be a continuation of that. I think it would be good for Bawtry, and good for Doncaster.

"We would offer different whiskeys and cocktails, and members would be given a passport that would get stamped every time they bought a new drink - to try and encourage people to try something different.

"And I know people have suggested that we would be letting people drink before they got a tattoo, but it would be appointment only, and you would have to see our reception staff before you could go to the bar so that wouldn't be possible. We will offer custom tattoos, and consultation with a designer that again, would be offering something new and different for Doncaster.”

A council spokesperson said: “The Gentleman’s Retreat made an application for a premises licence which included adult activities taking place on site. The committee was concerned about the protection of children, which is a licensing objective. Conditions were therefore imposed on the licence to meet these objectives.

“By the applicant’s own admission he will be showing 18 rated films throughout the day. There will also be drinking, gambling, tattooing and burlesque dancing taking place at the venue. In light of this the committee did not feel that such an environment was suitable for children.

“The applicant offered no alternative arrangements regarding the admission of children to the venue during the hearing. Mr Herrington is of course free to apply to vary his licence requesting new conditions.”

Mr Herrington is set to open his tattoo parlour later this year.