Plans to allow outdoor drinking at a Strand venue have been partially approved.

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Spoken had applied to East Devon District Council to allow its customers to drink in a demarked area of the Strand until midnight.

The plan drew objections from Devon and Cornwall Constabulary, who said that customers using the area could become victims of crime, and that furniture placed outside could be used as weapons by intoxicated passers by.

At a licensing meeting this week, councillors decided to allow Spoken to have outside drinking until 11pm, on condition that customers must be seated, use plastic or toughened glasses, that the area for Spoken customers must be clearly marked, that CCTV should be monitored at all times, that furniture must be secured after use, that information signs should be erected, and that two doorstaff must be on duty during peak periods.

The decision came after Spoken owner George Nightingale told councillors his plan would improve Exmouth town centre at night, and that in two years of trading Spoken had not had any incidents that required the police.

He said: “We’re a responsible licensee and bring responsible and respectable people into the centre of town. We’re trying to remove conditions [of our licence] that hinder responsible people coming into town.

“I think the police view is somewhat skewed because if there aren’t good people in town you do hand it over to people that aren’t wanted.”

Putting police objections to councillors, police licensing officer Barry Sleight said: “Progressively from 10pm [The Strand] becomes more rowdy and more violent.

“The police view is [this application] is putting a beer garden in the town centre and putting people in that at risk of abuse from people passing by.”

Speaking after the meeting, Mr Nightingale defended his plan.

He said: “The application was made in response to a ‘legal’ requirement of DCC to issue pavement licenses for all traders wishing to use any area belonging to the council - whether in the license trade or not.

“Because of the nature of the business, we were subsequently required to apply for a licensed, and designated, consumption area from EDDC - the purpose of this application.

“We were the first premises to make such an application on this new space, and so were a test case in the whole saga of licensing The Strand.

“The license has not been ‘rejected’, however, a number of conditions have been applied to our outside area restricting its use that we believe is not in the spirit of why the investment was made.”

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