A popular park café in Hove could become more like a pub if councillors agree to grant a drinks licence for the premises, a neighbour said today (Thursday 23 November).
Goldstone Crescent resident Garth Hall was one of three neighbours to voice their objections to a licence application by the Hove Park Community Café.
Mr Hall told a Brighton and Hove City Council licensing panel: “The park is for everyone to use.
“I’ve got concerns it’s going to turn it into virtually a public house without the requirement to serve food with a drink which I understand is what the licence conditions would say.
“The amount of people that could be within that area could be pretty large. It’s not a small café with a little terrace. It’s an enormous terrace.”
The café occupies what was once the tennis pavilion – next to the tennis courts – towards the southern end of Hove Park. It can seat 18 customers inside and up to 40 outside.
Owner and director Gino Fox, 63, has applied for a “café-style” licence. It requires substantial food to be available, unlike a restaurant licence where drinks may only be served with a meal.
Mr Hall asked Mr Fox and the manager Millie Duthie whether people would be able to buy a coffee and a bottle of beer and leave the area.
They said that anyone buying alcohol would be served at a table and expected to drink it there.
Another neighbour Colin Howell was concerned about the effectiveness of the closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras that would be required as a condition of any licence. He said that they might not effectively cover the outside area.
But if the café was granted a licence, one of the conditions would require a CCTV system which would be subject to checks by Sussex Police.
Mr Howell also said: “This is going to become quite an attractive spot for potentially large groups of people. Pubs are starting to restrict stags and hens and stuff like that.
“I am concerned that potentially this will start off as a meeting point or potentially a finishing point for large groups of people who will want to drink together.”
Orchard Gardens resident Lorna Gartside told the panel that she was worried about public safety because the park was dark at night.
Ms Duthie, the designated premises supervisor, said that the outside areas would be “vigilantly managed” by staff dedicated to the space.
She said: “The whole menu and the whole style of the café is very much going to be the same and it will still be family orientated. It’s not going to change.
“We’re not going to be irresponsibly promoting the sale of alcohol. It’s going to be integrated into our family-style menu anyway.”
If the council licensing panel – made up of three councillors – grants a drinks licence, the plan is to sell wine by the glass, draft beer and cider, and cans from Brighton breweries.
Ms Duthie said that customers who wanted to buy a bottle of wine would be required to order a meal.
Mr Fox said that he did not want to exclude spirits from the licence because they might want to sell Aperol and similar aperitifs in the future.
He also said that there were no plans for “vertical drinking” with people expected to be sat at a table rather than standing.
Mr Fox also said that he had abandoned plans to demolish the current building and replace it with a Japanese-style pavilion.
The panel – councillors Emma Daniel, John Hewitt and Paul Nann – retired to reach their decision which should be made public within five working days.