THE Sugar Hut licence is under review following a groundbreaking move by the council, we can reveal.
As it stands the popular High Street nightclub will be unable to reopen until it complies with strict conditions set to be imposed as part of the alcohol licence review.
Brentwood Borough Council's chairman of licensing, Cllr Joan Holmes, has made history by calling in the licence for reassessment, which until a change in the law earlier this year the authority was powerless to do.
Refurbishments are well under way at the Sugar Hut to repair the damage caused by fire which gutted the Grade II listed building in September last year, and the Gazette understands the doors could be open in around three or four months' time.
Cllr Holmes said: "As the Sugar Hut could be opening in the next couple of months I took the opportunity of asking officers to gather a report for me giving details of any evidence they may have accumulated with regards to over-crowding, underage drinking, drug taking and any other incidents attributable to them.
"The report produced is very comprehensive and a credit to the officers and it gave me the evidence I needed.
"I have therefore called in the licence for review which is a first for Brentwood and probably the country."
A review could only have been called previously by a relevant authority other than the council, like the police, or a member of the public.
A change in law has now made it possible for Brentwood Borough Council to act and it is working with various bodies including the police, fire service, Trading Standards and Child Protection Agency.
Cllr Holmes said the council aimed to work with the Sugar Hut bosses to implement the licence conditions but if they refuse to comply they will not have a licence.
The venue can also be shut down if it flouts the rules imposed under the review.
As part of the council's evidence, around 1,100 people were spotted entering one evening, despite there being a capacity of just over 500.
The club was also linked to mounting violence in the town centre before the fire.
Cllr Holmes said: "I am not out to crucify the business but am insistent that when it does open again there are strict controls in place not only to ensure the safety of its patrons but also that residents can carry on enjoying the peace they have come to expect over the past few months.
"I hope that the Sugar Hut management team will now work with officers and members of all the responsible authorities to get the right controls in place to make the Sugar Hut a safe and enjoyable place to visit and give it a better reputation for residents than it has had in the past."
Doubts over the reopening of the venue resurfaced recently when a Basildon nightclub, Sky Bar Sports Arena, owned by the same parent company, ceased trading.
Furthermore, the joint police and fire investigation into the Sugar Hut blaze is still ongoing.
When the Gazette went to press the Sugar Hut group was unavailable for comment.