Licensing restrictions

'We're ruined'...Are councils too quick to restrict opening hours?

By Oli Gross contact

- Last updated on GMT

The Potting Shed, Bingley
The Potting Shed, Bingley

Related tags: Pub, Council of the european union, Complaint

Restrictions to a pub’s opening hours can have huge consequences - shutting early to appease neighbours can devastate takings, and restricting garden hours can be off-putting for smokers or customers hoping to sit outside. But do councils strike a fair balance when considering restrictions?

The Hop Poles in Alton is “close to going under” after being forced to settle for closing times 90 minutes earlier.

This summer Hampshire Police complained of crime and disorder and nuisance, and locals kept a catalogue of incidents including shouting, swearing, singing and chanting which was claimed to be primarily in the beer garden.

'Ruined'

But licensee Gavin Mackrell claimed the complaints mostly came from one resident.

“If they keep complaining they’re going to get a restriction, it solves the problem,” he told the PMA​.

“It’s absolutely ruined this pub, we’re close to going under. It’s disgraceful. Everyone came her in the last hour; we aren’t busy in the day.”

He conceded the pub did make mistakes, as inspectors found too many people in the garden, and a new member of staff took out the rubbish at 1am one night - which was caught on tape recorder.

But Mackrell said he felt targeted due to the earlier complaints.

The pub did close at 1.30am, but hours were scaled back this summer after a police report recorded 11 complaints of anti-social behaviour to police in 12 months.

“They hit us left right and centre with restrictions,” Mackrell added.

Mackrell spent £100,000 renovating the pub and garden, adding Astroturf and table tennis tables.

"What would be the point?"

The Potting Shed in Bingley, Bradford was scrutinised by its local council last month after residents complained about noisy customers in the garden.

Licensing officers had advised that the garden should be closed from 8pm after tests carried out in a nearby flat found noise levels broke guidelines.

Manager Benjamin Comstive told the Publican’s Morning Advertiser​:  “There’s been a big investment in the garden. In summer trade increases by three, we take a lot more money.

“If the garden closes and the weather is nice, who’s going to come in? They come because they can sit in such a beautiful garden. What would be the point in us being here?”

Reputation

The Potting Shed launched a petition to keep the garden open, which gained 650 signatures in two days, to support its case for the garden to stay open.

“We could have got 5,000. We’re the best thing that’s happened for the area,” Comstive said.

 “The amount of footfall we have brought to the town. It’s somewhere for couples to come, older people, somewhere they can feel safe. We had lots of complaints but all from one person.”

The planning committee took into account the pub’s good reputation, and decided not to restrict the garden’s opening hours, and only limit the sale of alcohol.

No more garden dining

The Rose and Crown, Bury, had its garden opening hours restricted to 8pm last year after neighbours complained about noise.

The pub backs on to a housing area, and until the council ruled against the pub last year, its beer garden was open until 10pm.

Manager Liam Dwyer said the restriction had a big affect on the pub’s trade.

“Customers can’t dine outside in the evening now,” he explained.

“The neighbours complained it was having an impact on them.”

Ten complaints were made to Bury Council by three people from 2009-2010. It was claimed that phone calls to the pub hadn’t prevented noise.

According to a council report, one mother had to move her two-year-old son to a different bedroom due to noise.

The council concluded the pub wasn’t able to control noise levels in the beer garden, and imposed the restriction.

Smoking restrictions

This year The Crown, St Albans, turned its carpark into an extended beer garden to try to improve food sales.

But the pub had to apply for retrospective planning permission to let customers use the garden after 11pm.

Neighbours complained of noise disturbances, and last week the planning committee decided to listen to residents and did not grant the extension.

This was despite the pub being commended for improving the area, and claims it would help staff monitor the premises more easily.

Smokers will now have to use the front of the pub rather than the seated garden.

Do councils strike a balance when restricting pub licences? Send your views to oli.gross@wrbm.com

Related topics: Licensing law

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