Extending hours for the sale of alcohol and removing conditions despite Newcastle’s Special Stress Area restrictions
Leading sector licensing firm Poppleston Allen has aided national operator Mitchells & Butlers (M&B) in securing a variation of a licence for its current Browns site in Newcastle, despite the restaurant being located in a Special Stress Area.
On 16 April, through extensive work carried out by Poppleston Allen’s managing partner, Lisa Sharkey, Newcastle licensing committee granted a variation application submitted by M&B in respect of the current Browns restaurant.
The application was to vary the licence to convert the premises to operate as M&B’s All Bar One brand. As part of this, the company was seeking to extend the hours for the sale of alcohol until 1am Friday and Saturday, and remove existing conditions which required the premises to primarily operate as a restaurant with alcohol being ancillary to food. M&B were also seeking to remove conditions requiring part of the premises to be set aside and reserved for diners.
What was so special about the grant was that the premises are located in a Special Stress Area in the city’s Grey Street, where there is a presumption to refuse applications - less the applicant can demonstrate exceptional circumstances and that there will be no negative impact on the licensing objectives. Despite assurances Northumberland Police raised concerns that removing the restaurant condition from the licence would set a precedent and increase crime and disorder in the area.
Sharkey said: “The key point here was highlighting that food was an important part of the offer and on average food accounted for 35% of sales. However, we did not want restaurant conditions nor areas set-aside for diners because it did not suit the flexible use that M&B wanted in the All Bar One. We also highlighted that in All Bar One there is a heavy focus on seating which satisfied the councils key licensing message for Grey Street and Granger Street, which is to avoid vertical drinking.
“We also made the point that M&B was one of the first companies in the country to impose minimum prices on drinks, and has got no problem conforming to minimum pricing. It has also had an alcohol and social responsibility policy in place for 12 years, and is a major funder of the Drinkaware campaign."
Upon granting the application, Councillor George Pattison stated that the committee were satisfied that M&B had demonstrated exceptional circumstances and were persuaded that the grant would not adversely impact upon the licensing objectives. M&B is set to invest c£700,000 refurbishing the premises, for a re-opening later this summer.
Sharkey said: “We are delighted to have been able to assist M&B in this tricky case and in this special area. All Bar One is M&B’s premium wine bar offer with food being an important aspect. Food will always be available as per the conditions of the licence but we also wanted to make sure the venue would retain its flexibility. We are delighted that the committee voted to grant the licence.”