Islington Licensing Committee today refused Brewdog a Licence to create a Danish-themed bar in a former Italian restaurant in Farringdon Road, Clerkenwell.
The proposed Bar, for 120 patrons, would have served high-strength beer in small glasses, brewed by Danish craft brewer Mikkeller, served with cold Danish and “local” food, until 0030hrs, seven days a week.
I explained to the Committee why I felt it should refuse the application. It was a case of “good idea – wrong premises”. I added that I had had a productive meeting and walkabout with Neil Taylor of Brewdog, who had satisfied me that the concept was not as I first feared, another vertical drinking establishment.
But I felt the choice of premises was unsuitable, first, because it was wrong to convert what had been a restaurant into another bar, in an area where “saturation” policies were in force and had recently been extended; secondly, there was a serious risk to the public because smokers would spill out onto the narrow pavement thus causing passers-by to have to step into the carriageway of a busy “red route”; and thirdly, I had concerns about the pavement nearby which has two electrical control boxes giving easy access to the top of a parapet wall from which, on the other side, there was a 6m drop directly onto electrified railway tracks.
Brewdog argued that they were only amending the licence of the former restaurant, that the change didn’t need planning permission, and that their unique craft-beer-pub-as relaxed wine-bar concept would avoid the issues I forsaw. Drinking would not be permitted outside and smokers would be limited to 10. Dispersal would be over an extended period rather than all at once.
The Committee retired to make its decision. The reasons for the refusal will be released later.
I think it is likely that Brewdog will now appeal to the Magistrates.
I don’t take any pleasure in this decision; in fact, I would now be glad if the Brewdog/Mikkeller concept were to try again in Clerkenwell, and replace some of the other “problem” licensed premises here, of which there are still many. The snag is that this may not currently be financially viable. Stuffing indifferent beer down the throats of undiscriminating drinkers, in significant quantities, is still far too profitable.
Nevertheless, one day it might come about, perhaps when the concept has been proved to be financially as attractive as the vertical drinking establishments, possibly assisted by new developments in Licensing such as the Late Night Levy.