The owner of a specialist whisky bar asked councillors to allow him to keep it open until midnight, saying that many customers were currently rushing to reach the premises by closing time.
Cut Your Wolf Loose, in Trafalgar Street, Brighton, currently closes at 10pm as part of conditions placed on its licence before it opened in 2020.
Sussex Police and Brighton and Hove City Council licensing officials objected to the application to trade later so a council licensing panel, consisting of three councillors, was asked to decide the matter.
The councillors were told that agreement had been reached on off-sales of miniatures as part of cocktail kits and four-packs of craft beer. And up to 15 people could use the garden until 9.30pm
General manager and “dram dealer” Paul De Newtown and owner Sebastian Woolf put the case for the business at a virtual hearing this morning (Thursday 16 November).
Mr De Newtown said that customers who come for an after-dinner drink struggled to reach the venue before the 10pm closing time and they were having to turn people away.
Another concern was that people were arriving at 9.30pm and rushing their drinks when the venue aimed to offer a more leisurely experience.
He said: “We don’t have a high-volume drinking situation here. Most of what we do is a sipping and enjoying and savouring experience for people.
“We offer guided tastings all the way through our licensing hours, whether it be one or two people or 15 to 20 people who have booked in for an afternoon.”
Business owner Sebastian Woolf described the venue as unique to Brighton and possibly even the country, attracting visitors from around the world.
Mr Woolf said: “We have tourists coming specifically to Brighton to come to see us for the bottlings we do as an independent bottler. We take bottles and work with local and national artists for these. It attracts a broad spectrum of custom from all over the world.”
Mr Woolf said that one of the frustrations with 10pm closing was that the company could not extend its hours during the Platinum Jubilee celebrations because they had an earlier closing time.
Sussex Police licensing officer Claire Abdulkader said that a panel of councillors had granted the previous licence so it was right that the same process was followed for the proposed variation.
She said that the North Laine area had a high crime rate which could affect the business and its customers.
In the past year – from November 2022 to November 2023 – 883 thefts, 630 violent crimes and 429 incidents of anti-social behaviour had been reported within 400 metres of the premises.
She said that the force had had no problems with Cut Your Wolf Loose in the two years since the premises had opened.
Officers were called out only once – on its opening night when a customer was drunk but the issue was resolved without any problems.
The licensing panel was made up of Labour councillors Julie Cattell and Emma Daniel and Conservative councillor Carol Theobald.
Councillor Daniel said that the council’s licensing policy for the busy heart of Brighton, where new licences and licence variations were restricted, was not a “blunt tool”.
She said: “What we have to satisfy ourselves about is the offer – a substantially different niche. I think what you’ve described to us is that.”
The panel retired to make its decision which is due to be made public within five working days.