Plans for ’boutique’ bar rejected after ‘bottomless brunch pre-drinking’ claims

Plans to open a ’boutique’ bar in a Yorkshire city centre have been turned down after claims it would be used for bottomless brunch ‘pre-drinking’ sessions.

Police objected to the application to open The Snug Club at a derelict building on Carter Street, in Wakefield, over fears that it would add to alcohol-related disorder in the area. The building, just off Westgate, is an area identified as a violent crime hotspot. Wakefield Council has a policy not to allow new licenses for bars in the so-called ‘cumulative impact zone’ (CIA) unless in exceptional circumstances.

A licensing panel turned down the application, saying they were not satisfied that the premises would not add to problems in the area.

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West Yorkshire Police also claimed the applicant, Ashley Stockton, is”not a responsible person” to run the venue as he had previously breached licensing conditions while in charge of premises in Barnsley. Duncan Craig, a barrister representing Mr Stockton, said the premises would have a maximum capacity for 120 people, with seating available for 47 people.

Wakefield Council has rejected an application to open The Snug Club bar, at a derelict building on Carter Street.Wakefield Council has rejected an application to open The Snug Club bar, at a derelict building on Carter Street.
Wakefield Council has rejected an application to open The Snug Club bar, at a derelict building on Carter Street.

The application sought permission to serve alcohol and to play music from 11pm to 2am. Mr Craig said the bar would have a “substantial food offer” and described the premises as “bijou” and “boutique”

Panel member councillor Olivia Rowley said: “You are allowing yourself to imply that it is going to be different from other pubs in the area. The whole idea of it being boutique – serving pigs in blankets and toasted bread drizzled in gravy. I’m not really sure you have argued that there is something different or exceptional about it. So why would we add to the problems we have already got?”

Mr Craig asked his client to describe his plans for the bar to panel members.

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Mr Stockton said: “It’s going to be very quirky. Very floral. Lots of flowers, that kind of stuff. It’s going to be quite trendy, really. It’s going to be a bit more upmarket. We don’t want to be just letting any Tom, Dick or Harry in.

“It’s going to be high-end and bespoke. It’s going to be cool. We are going to have a couple people playing saxophones.”

Councillor Kathryn Scott asked Mr Stockton about his intention to have a dress code at the new venue.

He replied: “No tracksuits. People are going to have to be much smarter than what we see on Westgate. I wouldn’t go as far as shoes. But dress trainers, smart jackets, shirts.”

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Police barrister Daniel Penman argued that the premises would contribute to drink-related offending in the area. He referred to bottomless brunch menus for the new premises. Mr Penman said the offer includes unlimited pizza, cocktails and beer for 90 minutes, costing £30 per person.

The deal is advertised as being available between 6.30pm to 8pm on Friday, 2.40pm to 4pm and 5.30pm to 7pm on Saturday and 6pm to 7.30pm on Sunday.

Mr Penman said “These are not, in my opinion, the traditional hours to have brunch. This isn’t bottomless brunch – it’s pre drinking. That’s the reality of this promotion. It’s an encouragement for people to come to this bar and drink as much as they can before they then go out into the rest of Westgate.

“This is consistent with the licensing objectives. It also demonstrates the attitude of Mr Stockton. He thinks this is a good idea and marks his premises out as different.”

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Mr Penman said the proposed layout of the premises included booths around the edge of the bar but no seating in the middle of the floor.

He continued: “It has been suggested this is going to be a boutique bar serving substantial food. Only 40 per cent of the customers are going to be sitting down. Now, if you have ordered your pizza, or your pigs in blankets drizzled in gravy, you are going to need to sit down to eat them.

“So, 60 per cent of the people in these premises aren’t going to be able to eat any food because they will have nowhere to sit. It is not a food-led establishment. It is not a boutique establishment. It is a drinking bar, like many others in the area. No amount of fake grass is going to change that.”

The barrister added: “You have heard today about a dress code. You may have got the impression that Mr Stockton was making it up about that dress code as he went along.”

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Paul Dean, a licensing enforcement for the council’s anti-social behaviour unit, and David Pickersgill, councillor for Wakefield North ward, also spoke against the proposal.

Paul Jacques, a senior legal advisor for the council, said full details of the reason for refusal will be published at a later date.

He added: “Any licensed premises at this location must be of the highest standard and be a well-measured and thought out application. On the evidence before the committee today, they are not satisfied that the application they have received will not impact on the licensing objectives of the CIA area.”

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