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Duke of York pub wins Westminster council licence review hearing

By Adam Pescod , 23-Nov-2012
Last updated the 26-Nov-2012 at 11:17 GMT

Related topics: EMROs and Late-Night Levy, General News

Westminster City Council insisted it was right to review the licence of the Duke of York in Fitzrovia, despite footing the bill for the review as the pub emerged victorious from the hearing.

Relief: Debi Sickelmore and Alan Monks

Relief: Debi Sickelmore and Alan Monks "run an outstanding business"

A review was ordered by the Council’s licensing authority on the Duke of York in October following complaints about the number of people drinking outside the pub.

Licensing inspectors argued that the review was necessary because measures had not been taken to deal with the number of customers congregating and drinking outside the premises, which it said was obstructing the pavement for wheelchair users.

Licensees Alan Monks and Debi Sickelmore had agreed to use barriers and a steward in a high-visiblity jacket to control the situation but licensing inspectors said they found no evidence of an employee in a high-vis jacket and that the barriers didn’t leave enough room for wheelchair users.

At yesterday’s hearing, licensing sub-committee chairman Tim Mitchell noted that the premises had made efforts to address the problems of outside drinking by installing the barriers and using stewards.

He said that no specific conditions would be added to the pub’s licence but advised that a general condition be added, which reads: “The premises licence holder shall ensure that any patrons drinking and/or smoking outside the premises do so in an orderly manner and are supervised by staff so as to ensure that there is no public nuisance or obstruction to the public highway.”

Both parties agreed that the designated outside drinking area would remain at the east of the premises with an additional one-metre area retained on Rathbone Street which would allow enough space for pedestrians to pass.

The pub’s landlord Greene King backed Monks and Sickelmore throughout the case, engaging a barrister and a QC, and covering their legal costs. However, Westminster is footing the bill for the review.

Simon Longbottom, managing director for Greene King Pub Partners said: “We are delighted with the decision of the hearing. The Duke of York is a great example of a well-run, traditional London pub. Our tenants Alan and Debi run an outstanding business and manage the outside drinking area with real professionalism.”

“If you are a good operator, you address these things,” said licensee Debi Sickelmore. “That is why we just don’t understand why we have got to this point, but it is brilliant that they have understood we are professional in what we are doing.”

Westminster City Council’s licensing sub-committee chairman Tim Mitchell said: “Westminster City Council supports local business and pubs and we feel that it is a testament to the vast majority of pub owners that only 20 have had their licences reviewed since the current laws came into place nine years ago.

“However the council has a responsibility to protect the safety of pedestrians using walkways in Westminster, and ensure that groups of drinkers congregating on pavements do not force them to walk in the road.

“Between June 2011 and August 2012, officers visited the Duke of York 28 times in response to residents’ complaints about noise and drinkers and smokers blocking the pavement outside the premises.

“We have made many attempts to address these issues with the pub and had they taken steps to deal with the nuisance sooner, the review could have been avoided. We have now reached a compromise that the management will ensure people drinking and smoking outside the pub do so in an agreed area.”

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