Relations between neighbours and a pub have broken down over complaints about noise and anti-social behaviour.
A Brighton and Hove City Council licensing panel was told that people living near Le Village pub in High Street, Kemp Town, kept noise diaries and wanted shorter opening hours and a noise limiter at the popular venue.
During a six-hour “virtual” meeting today (Wednesday 25 November), there were allegations of homophobia from the pub owners while the neighbours said that they were subject to abuse online and outside their homes.
Darwell Court Residents’ Group representative Samantha Dyke said that nine separate households had complained about noise and anti-social behaviour, not just those living in the four-year-old block of flats.
Mrs Dyke said that many people living in the area were elderly, vulnerable and disabled, while there were also young families.
She said: “We feel very targeted currently by comments on social media that have incited trolling and a lot of hate on social media directed to Darwell Court and local residents, based on accusations we are anti-gay and we are nasty, vindictive people with a vendetta.
“This has made living in our homes, which we love, very challenging. Some of the people living in Darwell Court and locally have felt approaching the pub directly has been a worrying thing for them to do.”
In her personal representation, Mrs Dyke said that her family had a good relationship with the previous manager.
She initially started texting co-owner Lee Wain (formerly Cockshott) when the noise became too much. She contacted the council in November 2019 and discovered others had complained.
In February she met with Mr Wain’s business partner Simon Ebers to talk about noise issues.
Mrs Dyke said: “At various points things have been promised by both Lee and Simon, like double glazing, a noise limiter, addressing some of the problems, (but they) have not materialised.
“I like working with people. I like working in the community. We like living in our house. When we are disturbed in the night, it kicks off my husband’s dystonic shake. When he’s asleep it does not happen.”
She described a particularly noisy night when a stripper performed – at midnight on a Sunday – as “horrendous”.
St James’s Street resident Lucille Robinson said that she had lived in the area for 30 years. She said that she was accustomed to a wide variety of noises from traffic to people and never previously had a complaint about the pub which was formerly known as the Ranelagh.
She said: “The only intrusion on our lives has been since the opening of Le Village. The intrusion has been through the lights which shine directly on to us – every room in the house the lights shine into – and the level of noise.
“What is acceptable up to 11.30 at night is not acceptable beyond that, when it goes to 3am.
“A lot of the people congregate outside on the pavement. A very small percentage are smoking. Most of them are talking.”
Labour councillor Jackie O’Quinn, who chaired the three-member licensing panel, asked all neighbours what they would like to see to improve their experience.
Ideas put forward included earlier closing hours on Sundays and conditions restricting people from going outside after 11.30pm.
Council regulatory service manager Annie Sparks said that a noise abatement order had been served followed after neighbours kept extensive noise diaries and meetings with both Mr Ebers and Mr Wain.
The pub’s barrister James Rankin asked whether any environmental health officers had personally witnessed any noise issue or anti-social behaviour during visits, including out of hours.
Ms Sparks said that they had not, adding that this was not a requirement before issuing a noise abatement order.
According to Mr Rankin, the pub now had an “all singing, all dancing” sound limiter to reduce noise.
Conservative councillor Dee Simson asked about a public post on Mr Wain’s Facebook profile, saying: “So today is the day that I finally get to tell the world about the homophobia, prejudice and harassment that me and my business have had to suffer at the hands of some of my neighbours for the last 12 months.”
She said: “There’s a lot of work to be done between yourselves and local residents, so I don’t understand why you have put up a Facebook post that is going to incite them.
“How are you going to be building bridges and reduce the animosity between you?”
Mr Wain said that he wanted to work with the neighbours as someone who lived and worked in the area.
His post, he said, was in response to a different neighbour’s comment and he said that he had not named anyone.
Mr Wain said: “That conversation was very real and, as I stood there, I felt a bit of prejudice. At no point have I said that to Darwell Court or pushed it in their direction.
“Unfortunately, there was one conversation that we feel was prejudiced against us. I know my Facebook post is very public. I’ve not mentioned anybody. It’s about me having my time to say how I feel.
“We use our social media to vent off or to say what you’re feeling or talk about what you’re doing in your life.”
He agreed with Councillor Simson’s comment that, on reflection, it was probably not a helpful move.
Mr Rankin asked for the most appropriate and “least onerous” course of action from the panel.
To appease neighbours, the pub offered to accept extra conditions to its licence, including shorter licensing hours, closing an hour earlier than at present.
Under the proposed conditions, on Friday and Saturday nights the pub would close at 1am the next morning and on Sundays it would shut at midnight, with half an hour drinking up time.
The owners said that they were willing to have a noise limiter, move the entrance to the garden and after 11.30pm to limit the number of smokers outside to 10, without drinks.
They would also employ door staff on Fridays and Saturdays, with marshalling on weekdays. The company would also look into installing a sound barrier between the pub and Darwell Court.
Mr Rankin said: “There is a lot of bridge-building that needs to be done. It’s a good thing we have had this hearing as all sides know where they stand. There would be no excuse if conditions are exposed and breached.”
He said that Le Village was not the enemy and the two sides needed to start talking.
The panel retired to make its decision which is due to be made public within five working days.
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