Club where teen was murdered to reopen

THE NIGHTCLUB where teenager Ben Lund was murdered is set to reopen after Eastbourne Borough Council gave it the green light.

The Funktion Rooms in Pevensey Road, which will reopen under a new team with a new name, was granted variations to its licence at the Town Hall on Wednesday evening (February 8).

The club will have a maximum capacity of 560 people - more than double the 250 capacity which was set by authorities after 19-year-old Ben’s death back in the summer of 2009. The club, which has in the past been able to accommodate 640 people, closed as a result of the decrease in capacity and at Wednesday night’s meeting the man who intends to operate the new club, Michael Kill, said he needed a capacity of 560 people for commercial reasons. The club was also given the green light to install a top floor smoking terrace for no more than 20 people at any one time.

Adrian Ley, chairman of the Town Centre Neighbourhood Panel, raised concerns about crime and disorder at the meeting.

He told councillors on the sub-committee that part of Pevensey Road was a ‘crime hotspot’ when the club was open. He said, “Since its closure many residents had noted a considerable improvement in their quality of life.”

Police inspector Viv Johnson said she believed the 38 stringent licence conditions, which include giving police the power to veto drinks promotions, would help to address any concerns. She added, “This is one we will be watching very closely and should Mr Kill put a foot wrong I will bring him back before this meeting.”

New operator Michael Kill, who has 17 years’ experience in running nightclubs and venues, said, “I completely understand some of the concerns the police and authorities have and I want to put those to rest. I am confident in my abilities to create a stringent working environment that both the police and the local authority and the fire service is going to be happy with.”

East Sussex Fire and Rescue did not attend the meeting but said it was happy with the capacity if the alterations were done as the plans suggest. These alterations involve a change in the internal layout and additional exits.

Cllr Greg Szanto, chair of the licensing committee, said it had not been an easy decision when he announced the variations to the licence had been granted.

Cllr Szanto said, “Everyone here and in the wider area is very concerned, especially given the tragic history.

“The police inspector has told us if they are not running it properly, she will be making quite sure that she takes proper legal action to ensure that the premises are run properly or indeed not run at all.”

He described the conditions as ‘stringent’ and said there was nothing more the applicant could do.

Ben’s family attended the meeting but were unable to speak because they were not an ‘interested party’.

After the meeting, Kris Lund, Ben’s father, said he was not surprised it had been given the go-ahead

Vicki Lund, Ben’s mother, said, “Everyone who knew Ben will never, never go there again.”

The family said the stringent licence conditions did not bring them any comfort.

Kris added, “They need to be watching it all the time and the police are always over-stretched as it is.”