A controversial Scottish brewery is applying for a Licence to convert what was previously a restaurant into a bar, at 54 Farringdon Road. This adjoins the existing Betsey Trotwood pub.
The brewery is controversial because of its aggressive marketing of very strong beers, some of which have been banned by the Portman Group, a brewing-industry group which promotes responsible drinking.
The application is also within the Clerkenwell “saturation zone” declared in 2011.
As such, the applicants have to show that the granting of the Licence will not add to the familiar issues of drunkenness and antisocial behaviour already encountered in the area. Consultation recently concluded on including the entire ward of Clerkenwell within such a zone.
The applicants seem unable to me to discharge this burden of proof. I have several problems with it, and have made an objection.
First, it will for most purposes become a ” drinking establishment”, and a “vertical” one at that. The applicants’ emphasis (judging by their web site) is exclusively on the consumption of beer.
There appears to be no detail in the Licence application about the type of food on offer, despite the application for a late-night refreshment licence.
We don’t need any more of them in the area – that’s why it’s a saturation zone.
Location of Premises
Secondly, the premises adjoin one of the busiest roads in the area, which sees a great deal of traffic, all night. As the traffic volume diminishes, speeds increase.
Smokers and others standing outside the premises are therefore at serious risk, particularly once intoxicated, of stepping, falling or being pushed into the carriageway and being injured. This was a recurrent problem with the former “Ghost” nightclub on the west side of Farringdon Road at this point.
Any pedestrians attempting to pass along the road on the pavement are highly likely to have to step into the road to pass by smokers and others standing outside the premises. I regard this as unacceptable.
The other hazard is that the premises adjoin a railway cutting some 12 metres below ground level, equipped with high voltage overhead cables. Some drinkers may climb onto the walls of the cutting and fall into the cutting, with fatal consequences.
Probability of Anti-Social Behaviour
The premises are unsuitable because of their relationship with nearby residential premises, consisting in particular of :
The Peabody Estate, Pear Tree Court, Warner Street, Herbal Hill Gardens and Clerkenwell Green.
I estimate that residents of some 500 flats will be affected.
Then there is the problem of arrival and dispersal routes. Although the premises are on Farringdon Road and near Clerkenwell Road, the routes by which people arrive and disperse are not confined to these roads. Peabody residents have consistently reported the use of their estate as a through-route (and as a toilet) by intoxicated people coming and going to licensed premises in the area and it is highly likely that these problems would increase should No 54 reopen as a vertical drinking establishment.
The applicants are notorious for the unusually strong brands of beer they sell. In view of the issues raised above, it seems to be particularly important that, should the application be granted, a restrictions should be placed on the strength of beer they sell. Patrons are likely to arrive from other venues with an impaired judgement about the strength of beer on offer, and thus to be incapable of understanding whether it is appropriate for them to consume it.
Hours of Operation
The applicants wish to sell alcohol until 0030, and food until 0100, every day of the week. This is a very late time for the sale of particularly strong beer, and seems likely to aggravate the problem of drunken departure.
The hours also seem to me to imply that final dispersal will take place up until 0200. This is highly unacceptable and may deny nearby residents the chance of proper sleep.
There will now be a hearing at a Licensing Committee meeting, probably next month.