Neighbours go head to head with Brighton whisky bar applicant at licensing hearing

Neighbours spoke out about plans to turn an off-licence into a whisky bar where people could sample drinks on the premises.

They said that were worried that licensing bosses would be setting “a dangerous precedent” if they approved the application.

Specialist whisky supplier Sebastian Woolf applied to turn the old Trafalgar Wines premises – in Trafalgar Street in Brighton – into somewhere his customers could try before they buy.

And he wants to call the North Laine premises – stocking individual casks from specific distilleries – Cut Your Wolf Loose.

Mr Woolf made his case to a Brighton and Hove City Council licensing panel at a “virtual” hearing today (Monday 18 May).

But the panel was told that the proposed whisky bar was in the council’s “cumulative impact zone” where the rules about new licences are stricter.

And just under a fortnight ago Mr Woolf was refused planning permission for a change of use. He was accused of trying to open a “pub by stealth”.

One neighbour, Peter Crowhurst, of Kensington Place, told the panel that to allow drinking in the shop would add to the noise and volume of people in the North Laine.

Mr Crowhurst, a former chair of the North Laine Community Association, said: “The area is saturated with licenced premises. It is a residential area.

“There are over 80 licensed premises, increasing by 300 per cent since 2005.

“Trafalgar Street has 15 licensed businesses, what other area has had to suffer this?

“People are leaving and then their houses become HMOs (houses in multiple occupation), party houses and ‘Airbnbs’. What used to be a mixed area has lost its soul.”

When Mr Woolf asked if it would be better to have a controlled drinking environment rather than an off-licence in the street, Mr Crowhurst said that a bar would be “of no benefit” to residents.

The North Laine Community Association’s licensing co-ordinator Roy Skam said that a venue dispensing “strong spirits” would lead to more alcohol being consumed in the “cumulative impact zone”.

He said: “If it were granted, I can envisage an avalanche of existing off-licences wanting to become bars. There are no exceptional reasons for this application.”

His fellow licensing co-ordinator Sandy Crowhurst said that since the licensing rules changed in 2005, it seemed as though every shop that closed was replaced with a café or restaurant.

Mrs Crowhurst said that people living in what was a quiet and densely populated residential area were being overlooked because of the volume of businesses selling alcohol.

Whitecross Street resident Jonathan Bromberg said that the area suffered from anti-social behaviour, with people stopping to smoke or relieve themselves outside his front door.

Green councillor Lizzie Deane said that the area had the “dubious” position of being number one in the city for alcohol-related crime and disorder.

Councillor Deane, who represents St Peter’s and North Laine ward, said that noise was a problem in the area when people left venues to walk home or go to other pubs and clubs.

She said that the “canyon effect” meant that sound reverberated down the streets.

Plans for the venue suggested that it could hold up to 40 people in the basement and on the ground floor, including outside the rear of the premises.

Councillor Lizzie Deane

And Mr Woolf said that his offer would be unique as he sought to help people learn about specialist distilleries in Scotland.

Councillor Deane said that the idea of a specialist whisky shop was not unique as there was already one in East Street, Brighton.

Mr Woolf owns the building because he wanted to be in full control of the business and used to live in the North Laine.

He said: “I really wanted to add to that environment by employing the knowledge I have of the whisky industry and create something totally unique – to build a bit of an institution and culture in Brighton.”

He said that his business would not attract “the Wetherspoons crowd”.

Councillor O’Quinn said: “We’ve heard all of this before. It’s unique. We’ve had craft people brewing in the basement. Their customers are going to be fine.

“Everyone says the same thing. For us, we have to determine if it is going to have a negative impact.”

The panel retired to make its decision which is due to be made public within five working days.

  1. Pingback: Neighbours go head to head with Brighton whisky bar applicant at licensing hearing - Brighton and Hove News - WhiskyNetWhiskyNet

  2. Christopher Hawtree Reply

    Did anybody sing “Alabama Song”? “Oh, show me the way to the next whisky bar, no, don’t ask why…”.

    • Sarah Reply

      Only in my mind

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