Brighton shisha garden owner awaits drinks licence verdict

A business owner said that he wanted more control over the alcoholic drinks consumed in his garden, a licensing panel was told.

Currently, customers can bring their own drinks to Vero Gusto’s “shisha garden” in St James’s Street, Brighton, because the licence to sell alcohol covers the shop and café area only.

Premises licence holder Ishag Salama told a Brighton and Hove City Council licensing panel that how some customers brought multipacks of beer with them.

The garden, where people can smoke flavoured tobacco through hookah water pipes, is reached by an alleyway two doors up from the main business.

He said that he could face trouble if people who brought along alcohol caused problems in the area so he would rather formalise matters by extending the area covered by his licence.

The current premises licence allows drinks to be served with a meal inside from 10am to midnight from Monday to Saturday and from noon to 11.30pm on Sundays.

The restrictions do not apply to the garden where customers may bring their own bottle.

At the panel hearing today (Friday 15 October), Mr Salama said that he hoped to sell more food by being able to serve drinks to diners in the garden.

Conservative councillor Dee Simson asked about controlling access to the garden by the alleyway rather than through the main shop entrance.

She was concerned about noise and anti-social behaviour because a similar alley further up St James’s Street was gated off after problems with drug dealing in the area.

Mr Salama said: “Yes, with this alleyway there is a problem with drugs. If you ask our neighbours, we look after it. Our staff clean it all the time.

“Even before I went for the application, we did it. The neighbours support us because we clean it all the time. We move people out … who want to use it as a toilet.”

He said that there were signs up in the garden asking customers to respect neighbours.

Sussex Police objected to the application because of concerns about crime and anti-social behaviour.

The premises is in Queen’s Park ward which was the third-worst in the city for alcohol-related crime and disorder, police said.

PC Andre Bernascone, a licensing officer, said that the area was saturated with licensed businesses from bars to clubs to restaurants, with 25 venues just a “stone’s throw” away from Vero Gusto.

He said that Sussex Police was concerned that the venue was moving away from being a licensed restaurant.

There were low tables which PC Bernascone said were for shisha rather than dining but Mr Salama shared new photographs with the panel to show that he has installed conventional dining tables.

PC Bernascone was also concerned that the shisha garden had separate staff and security cameras to the bakery and café premises.

Mr Salama said that the kitchen was in Vero Gusto and the garden already operated with the same food menu.

The panel – made up of three councillors – retired to reach a decision which should be made public within five working days.

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