A pub company boss said that his business was being treated unfairly because he was sticking to the rules about licensing.
Leo Day wants a licence to serve alcohol to customers at half a dozen tables on the pavement outside Libation, in Hove, until 7pm.
But neighbours and a councillor objected and he faced a Brighton and Hove City Council licensing panel which is responsible for deciding whether permission will be granted.
Libation – formerly the Tin Drum and Crafty Chooks – is part of the Day family’s Golden Lion Group which has seven pubs across Brighton and Hove.
The bar, in Victoria Grove, in Second Avenue, Hove, already has a pavement licence until September but it does not include alcohol.
But Mr Day wants the pavement licence made permanent – and to include alcohol – so he made an application in March last year but it was turned down after neighbours objected.
Had he waited a few months, he said, he would have benefited from changes to the rules to support pubs, bars, cafés and restaurants during the coronavirus pandemic.
These would have allowed him to serve alcohol to people at pavement tables without having to apply for a variation to his licence.
This would put him on the same footing as other bars and restaurants in Hove.
At the council licensing panel hearing yesterday (Tuesday 20 April) Mr Day said that his previous application should not have been refused.
He said: “We have proven our ability to operate similar areas elsewhere absolutely fine. There haven’t been any evidence-based complaints of a significant nature.
“The few that have made their way to us we have dealt with appropriately as soon as possible.
“Every other business in that area will be allowed to put tables and chairs on the highways subject to a highways licence and serve alcohol to it.
“For us to be withheld that opportunity due to me applying a few months early, and going through the correct formal procedures, seems very unjust as far as I’m concerned.”
Mr Day told the panel’s virtual hearing that he had received a complaint about late-night karaoke at the venue – but no such event had been held.
Libation has room for 90 customers inside its premises but cannot allow customers inside until Monday 17 May at the earliest because of covid-19 restrictions.
Mr Day told the panel of three councillors – Jackie O’Quinn, Dee Simson and Clare Rainey – that placing seats on the pavement would help the business survive after the covid lockdown.
But a neighbour, Charlotte Crowder, objected to the application although she did not think that serving alcohol would make much difference to the disruption already caused by tables in the street there.
She said: “Already there are people spilling out all over the road. Cars park all up that side and, with the turning circle just front of it, I do not think it is safe to extend the licence out on to the pavement.”
Labour councillor Clare Moonan, who represents Central Hove ward, said that it was a residential area with people going about their daily business finding the tables in the street disruptive.
Councillor Moonan said: “I appreciate the seating will be there anyway but it does leave a very narrow pavement.
“The issue is when people leave and are milling around, there are people with buggies and wheelchairs who struggle to get past and they’re going into the road. There is a public safety issue there.”
She said that if there was no alcohol licence, people might just stop for a cup of coffee but, with alcohol, people might have a meal and maybe stay all day.
Councillor Moonan said that she wanted to support the business in a post-covid recovery but was concerned about the effect on neighbours.
Councillor O’Quinn, who chaired the panel, suggested that any tables in the street could be subject to waiter service only to prevent people from moving around and blocking the pavement.
The pavement licence does not allow people to stand while eating or drinking in the area.
The panel retired to make its decision which should be made public within five working days.
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