Judge overturns decision to refuse alcohol licence to restaurant

A decision to refuse an alcohol licence to a restaurant operating at the site of a former Birmingham pub has been overturned by a judge.

Observatory pub in Barker Street, Lozells. Credit: Google
Observatory pub in Barker Street, Lozells. Credit: Google

Laverne Restaurant & Cocktail Bar Ltd applied for a licence for a new restaurant at the site of the former Observatory in Barker Street, Lozells, which lost its licence in 2020 following complaints from neighbours.

The new restaurant – which at the time was to be called Nyam and Jam – was opposed in a petition signed by more than 270 people as well as by West Midlands Police.

Councillor Waseem Zaffar said at the time that a new licence would mean a return to “illegal parking, people drinking and urinating in their front gardens and side entrances to the properties, rows and fights on a daily basis”.

Laverne Sowe, representing the restaurant, said the problems would not be repeated and that she was being painted with the same brush as the previous owner.

Birmingham City Council's licensing sub-committee refused a licence to the restaurant – but the owners appealed and a hearing was held at Birmingham Magistrates’ Court last month.

Following the hearing, District Judge Wain overturned the licensing sub-committee’s decision after noting new information had come to light.

This was chiefly that the restaurant had agreed new conditions with West Midlands Police – including that the business will operate solely as a restaurant and not as a “vertical drinking establishment”.

The premises is not permitted to have more than 30 customers in the licensable area at any time and there must be a booking system in place.

Glasses are not to be taken outside, music must be background level only and all doors and windows are to remain closed while music is played.

The premises must have a phone number available to neighbours in order to respond to complaints and notices must be displayed outside reminding customers not to park illegally.

The restaurant is also “not to be traded or styled or have any signage advertising Nyam and Jam”,

Sophia Lawrence, the former designated premises supervisor of The Observatory, is “not to be involved in the management or control of the premises, or be engaged to work there”.

Judge Wain said: “I must start by playing tribute to the local community. It is not in dispute that they suffered intolerable antisocial behaviour from the customers of previous occupants.

“It has affected them and their families and it is no surprise to me that they have the greatest suspicion that this will happen again.

“Their concerns are important and have assisted in the drafting of strict conditions.

“The principal officer of the applicant Ms Sowe has given evidence before me – it is apparent that she is fully aware of her responsibilities to not only the licensing regime but her local community.

“She has candidly admitted that more could have been done to engage with them and her commitment to correct this error.

“I have no doubt she will leave this court fully aware of the expectations of her and the serious consequences that will follow if these are not met.”

The judge said there was no link with the former pub, adding: “I am satisfied that Ms Sowe will promote the aims of the licensing regime.

“I am satisfied given the conditions put forward and the agreement of the responsible authorities that if those conditions are followed the mistakes of others in the past will not be repeated.

“I make no criticism of the licensing sub-committee. In fact, they have approached their task with care. What I am however persuaded is that the decision made is no longer the correct one on the new information.”

Birmingham City Council declined to comment.

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