Club stripped of licence
A Hamilton club has been stripped of its members' club licence after the Liquor Licensing Authority found it had failed to provide sufficient written proof it was doing work to benefit its members or the community.
The Ambiance Lounge on Angle Street, run by Carlton Simmons, was run more like a business than a members' club, according to LLA chairman Juan Wolffe.
Mr Simmons told The Royal Gazette that he had appealed against the ruling.
“We have appealed the decision of the Liquor Licensing Authority up to the Supreme Court, but we can not say anything more about it at this time,” he said.
In a written ruling by the authority Mr Wolffe said: “From the documentation provided it would appear that the sole or principal purpose of the club is to sell or supply alcohol.
“When one compares the revenue and the profit generated by the club from bar sales with the woefully small expenditure on community programmes, the impression that is left is that far more emphasis is disproportionately placed on the sale and supply and consumption of alcohol rather than on providing a benefit to the members or the community.
“It is unclear to us what actually is the purpose of the club. In our view the business model envisioned by Mr Simmons certainly is not allowed or contemplated by the Act.”
The Ambiance Lounge first applied for a members' club licence in February 2012 despite objections from residents who said the area “was saturated with establishments that currently hold liquor licences”.
The LLA initially refused the application and Mr Simmons applied again in November 2013, saying the purpose of the club was to fund his charity Youth on the Move. In March 2014, Ambiance Lounge was granted a members' club licence, which was renewed in May 2015 following a hearing. In March of this year Mr Simmons applied to renew his licence again. The LLA then asked him to provide a raft of documentation showing membership, subscriptions, minutes, account books and programmes to demonstrate it was a bona fide member's club.
“It appears that the only income of $285,655 comes from bar sales,” said Mr Wolffe.
“The club gained a profit of over $37,000 yet it is unclear as to what extent this profit was used for the benefit of the members of the club.
“Mr Simmons stated that going forward the subscriptions and dues will be accounted for. In our view this comment is vacuous as Mr Simmons and other executive members should have been well aware of their statutory obligations.”
The LLA's written ruling continued: “It would appear from the minutes of March 2016 that it [Youth on the Move] is not even in operation,” Mr Wolffe said.
“When the applicants applied for renewal of its members club licence last year, YOM figured quite prominently as justification by the applicants there was a significant charitable component to their licence.
“It would now appear that for part or maybe all of 2015/16 that YOM was not even in activation.”
Mr Wolffe added: “We are not satisfied that the club has organised sufficient programmes for it members or the community at large.
“The height of their contributions to the community are to the Bermuda Squad dance group, the Bermuda Triple Challenge and Soul Food Productions for a total of $1,200. This in our view is low compared to the revenue and profits generated from bar sales.”
Mr Wolffe said it was unclear who actually owned the club property and that the letters relating to its joint ownership were unsigned and “lacked legitimacy”. The LLA ruled that membership information and subscription details were “deficient” and that minutes and financial statements were insufficient.
Mr Wolffe said: “The sign-in book is simply unhelpful in establishing who the members are and whether the persons who used the club were members or were accompanied by members for the licencing period 2015/16.
“Where the names are legibly written they bear no resemblance to the membership lists provided by the applicants. In many instances the writing gives the appearance of pure doodling.
“We are not satisfied that the secretary of the club has kept a proper subscription book.”