Neighbours and Sussex Police have voiced their opposition to plans to convert a shop into a wine bar.
Owner Stephen Strafford wants to convert the premises at 32 Blatchington Road, Hove, which has previously housed a florist, tattooist, nail bar and care agency office.
At a virtual Licensing Panel held on Tuesday 22 September, Mr Strafford’s licensing consultant Steve Wright said the business would be well run and would not cause problems with noise or anti-social behaviour.
The original application was for a wine bar opening from 11am until 2am, with a licence for live music until 1.30am.
However, following opposition from Sussex Police as well as Brighton and Hove City Council’s licensing team, these hours were reduced to 11am to 11pm.
Blatchington Road is in the city’s Special Stress Area, where there is concern about the levels of crime disorder and public nuisance.
Council policy limits pub or bar opening times to 11pm.
Despite the changes, Sussex Police continue to oppose the application.
Force licensing officer Mark Thorogood told the panel in 2019 the force recorded 84 calls to businesses during the day in Blatchington Road, with 29 relating to violence, drugs, anti-social behaviour and theft.
He said: “We tend to find wine bars cause extra issues than run-of-the-mill pub doing draft lager because of the level of intoxication that can cause.
“We also tend to find these kinds of bars tend to attract people who enjoy taking recreational drugs like cocaine, that would be another concern for us.”
Panel member councillor Jackie O’Quinn said from her experience on licensing panels, wine bar clientele is usually older.
Mr Thorogood confirmed cocaine use is more widespread among office workers, not the “younger crowd”.
Licensing consultant Steve Wright, working on behalf of Mr Strafford, told the panel there are no issues with his café bar Bungaroosh in Preston Road, Brighton.
But Mr Thorogood said it is difficult to compare because it is a restaurant when food is available, whereas the Blatchington Road business would be a bar.
Mr Stafford said he aims to attract a high-class customer looking for something upmarket.
He said: “It’s only going to seat eight people, so all we are looking to do is find eight people who want something different.
“They don’t want to go to Costa Coffee or Wetherspoons. They want something different, a bit more upmarket.”
Phillippa Wyatt spoke on behalf of people in the area’s Facebook group, Four Streets In Hove, many of whom were not aware their opposition to a planning application did not count when it came to the alcohol sales licence.
She said: “When I explain, they said they had opposed the wine bar on the planning and they thought that was the licensing.
“It’s a common mistake.
“We wouldn’t be using the wine bar, I can assure you.”
Miss Wyatt said within ten minutes walk of the property, there are 12 pubs and bars, and 15 coffee shops, giving people plenty of choice.
The panel retired to make their decision which will be made public in seven working days.
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