The licensing officer reported that training documents, security procedures and age verification policy had been circulated. These would be interleaved with the agenda papers. Two further conditions had been agreed with the police regarding drinking up time and the employment of a door supervisor after 9pm. It was noted that the police and public health representation had been withdrawn after conditions had been agreed and also one resident representation had been withdrawn.
The licensing authority welcomed the reduction in drinking hours and the employment of a door supervisor but reported that the premises was in a cumulative impact area and the presumption would need to be rebutted that the premises licence would not undermine the licensing objectives. It was noted that the applicant had submitted training documents but had received a caution for selling alcohol previously without a licence. There was no mention of the applicant’s previous training, joining pubwatch or of the maximum number of covers. The conditions offered in the schedule were ambiguous with one stating that alcohol would only be sold to persons seated having a table meal while it was unclear if this was the case in the karaoke rooms. Conditions 3-5 contradicted conditions 6-8. Conditions needed to be clear and enforceable. He requested that a door supervisor be employed by an external company so they would not be subjected to management pressure. It was noted that Menelik was the previous licence holder.
A local resident objecting to the application, stated that it had taken years for the previous licence to be revoked. The noise from the premises had been horrendous. It had a glass front and no soundproofing. She wanted regeneration in Caledonian Road but there were a large number of licences in the area. She also considered there would be noise disorder from the premises. A licence to 2 or 3 am was not acceptable as it was a residential area.
The licensing officer stated that the licence was until 11pm during the week and midnight at the weekends. The resident stated that the neon sign outside was far too bright.
The applicant’s agent referred the Sub-Committee to the training policies that had been circulated which should address concerns. He would be referring to the Thwaites case. Hours were reduced, the premises was a restaurant with discreet karaoke and was not a bar or nightclub. The application now fell within the core hours. The representation by the police had been withdrawn. The applicant would enhance the dining experience. The Home Office guidance stated that the police would be the main source of advice on matters relating to the crime and disorder objective. The police were no longer objecting to the application and were satisfied that the application did not undermine the cumulative impact policy. The noise officers were not objecting and staff would be checking that all windows and doors were shut. They had worked through the licensing policy, they were within framework hours, they had created bespoke policies regarding training and dispersal, they could have sought a transfer of the licence if it was still in existence so would not be adding to the cumulative impact. They were not seeking seasonal extensions. The caution had been accepted at another premises in the borough which had been let to another individual who had actually been in breach of the law. The applicant’s representative stated that Mr Xie accepted the caution, as he did not understand the position. The lack of address on the application form was an oversight.
In response to questions it was noted that there were no non-standard timings requested. It was reported that all aspects of the application had been discussed at length with the police. It was agreed that the door supervisor be from an external agency. There would be a noise limiting device installed. The applicant, through the use of an interpreter, was unable to name for the Sub-Committee any of the licensing objectives. It was noted that the applicant had let his shop to a tenant and he was removing alcohol from the shelves when he had a visit from council officers. It was accepted that he should have exercised greater supervision.
In summary, the licensing authority stated that the Thwaites case could be distinguished from this premises as, in that particular case the premises were being well run and had no history of complaints. In this instance the applicant had received a caution. Also, the Thwaites case was possibly not in a cumulative impact area. He advised that the number of covers could be provided. In response to this, the applicant’s representative stated that there could be a maximum of 40 covers upstairs and 40 covers downstairs. The licensing authority further stated that the applicant had said that he received a formal caution for an offence that he says he did not commit and he wondered why this would be the case. Alcohol would be sold in four karaoke rooms without food and there was therefore the potential for excess alcohol. The premises were in a cumulative impact area and the applicant, although he had a personal licence was unable to answer questions about the licensing objectives. The licensing authority considered this to be unsatisfactory.
The resident reported that she still had concern about the noise from the karaoke rooms and that you could drink in these rooms. She also raised concerns about the number of people in the premises.
The applicant’s representative reported that the applicant’s response about the licensing objectives was due to the language barrier and there would be two employees on the premises who could speak English adequately. The noise team had not objected and there was no evidence to say there would be noise disturbance. He considered that they would not add to the cumulative impact and considered that their application had been hampered by a diabolical previous licensee. Each application should be considered on its merits. In the Thwaites case it stated that there should be no speculation on what might happen. A number of bespoke polices had been produced and hew conditions offered. Residents had the power of review and the applicant risked losing the licence if he failed to run the licence properly. The applicant’s representative asked the Sub-Committee to grant the licence.
RESOLVED that the application for a new premises licence for Old Friend, 277 Caledonian Road, N1 1ET be refused.
REASONS FOR DECISION
The Sub-Committee listened to all the evidence and submissions and read all the material. The Sub-Committee reached the decision having given consideration to the Licensing Act 2003, as amended, and its regulations, the national guidance and the Council’s Licensing Policy.
The Sub-Committee took into consideration Licensing Policy 2 and Home Office guidance 13.30. The premises fall under the Kings Cross cumulative impact area. Licensing policy 2 creates a rebuttable presumption that applications for new premises licences that are likely to add to the existing cumulative impact will normally be refused, unless an applicant can demonstrate in the operating schedule why the operation of the premises involved will not add to the cumulative impact or otherwise impact adversely on the promotion of the licensing objectives.
The Sub-Committee considered that the activities proposed were likely to add to the existing cumulative impact of the area. The applicant had not demonstrated that the operation of the premises would not impact adversely on the licensing objective of public nuisance and the Sub-Committee did not regard this as an exceptional case. There were no conditions which could effectively mitigate the negative impact on the licensing objective of public nuisance and it was appropriate and proportionate and in the public interest to refuse the application.
The Sub-Committee noted that the previous premises had ceased to operate before this application was submitted. Although the previous licensed premises had had a troubled history, the Sub-Committee accepted the argument of the applicant’s representative that it should concentrate on the merits of the current application and gave no consideration to earlier issues with another premises licence holder.
The police, public health and noise team had withdrawn their representations when conditions had been agreed, however, the licensing authority continued to be concerned about the potential for public nuisance. One of the conditions stated that there would be no vertical drinking anywhere on the premises. The Sub-Committee noted that it was not clear from the operating schedule whether the restaurant condition would apply to the entire premises and it was confirmed that in the basement area, where karaoke would take place, substantial meals would not be served. There could be a total of 80 patrons on the premises including 40 downstairs and it would not be possible to impose a condition realistically requiring a restaurant condition to apply to the entire premises.
Under licensing policy 10 the licensing authority, when assessing the applicant’s ability to demonstrate a commitment to high standards of management will take into account whether the applicant can demonstrate a comprehensive knowledge of best practice, can understand verbal and written advice and requirements, can demonstrate knowledge of the licensing objectives and their responsibilities under the Licensing Act, can run his business lawfully and in accordance with good practice and is able to demonstrate a track record of compliance with legal requirements.
The applicant had accepted a police caution for selling alcohol without a licence in other premises within the last 18 months. Although the applicant’s representative stated that this had been due to a misunderstanding and he had not committed the offence, the Sub-Committee considered that it could not go behind the fact of the caution.
When the applicant was questioned on his understanding of the licensing objectives, it became clear that he could not speak English. His colleagues translated the question but he was still unable to answer. The applicant’s representative stated that he would be the general manager and there would be an under manager and another person who could speak adequate English at the premises. However, they made no representations at the Sub-Committee and there was no evidence that the applicant could understand his responsibilities under the Licensing Act.