One of the challenges for many operators in residential areas is the use of beer gardens or external areas, whose increasing popularity with licensees and customers is not always matched
by nearby residents. If there are complaints then the following are important steps to take:-
- Brief staff on the importance of the outside area to the business and on dealing politely and promptly with local residents’ complaints. The former because there may be conditions on the Premises Licence, for example a time when all customers have to be inside and the latter because the days of a neighbour simply being dismissed as an “interfering busy body” or words to that effect are gone. Neighbours have power and influence with Local Authorities and need to be treated with respect.
- I emphasise staff briefing because you do not know when the complaint is going to come in and it may be when senior staff are not on duty, for example an early morning telephone call. It is vital that this initial contact is dealt with by an interested and engaged member of staff rather than, as you sometimes hear, “Yeah, it was a bit noisy last night but it was a busy Friday”. This will not appease the neighbour. Remember that the neighbour is likely to make a note and if there is any hearing such as a Review they will regurgitate all of this in front of the Licensing Committee.
- It is a good idea to meet the neighbour on site and discuss their specific concerns. Perhaps you can close certain sensitive areas earlier or move things around, away from the neighbour’s garden?
- If it is general “hubbub” then staff should interact with louder customers and you should have sufficient staff to do so.
- If this is not successful then the only measures really are either to reduce the terminal hour or the numbers. Large groups or bookings can sometimes be a risk factor.
- It is important to make a note of these measures and also, to prepare for a possible hearing, a log or record of the monitoring process by members of staff even if it is to state “quiet evening” or words to that effect.
- If the council does become involved then I would recommend an early meeting with the Noise or Licensing Officer to try and get them “on side” as soon as possible and to indicate that you are taking all reasonable measures.