Alcohol sales permission sought for cafe in Stafford park covered by booze ban

Alcohol could be served at a Stafford park currently covered by a booze ban if councillors give new plans the green light.

Victoria Park in Stafford. Photo: Kerry Ashdown
Victoria Park in Stafford. Photo: Kerry Ashdown

Victoria Park reopened to visitors in October following a £2.5 million restoration project.

Work has included the creation of a new café, operated by the team behind the popular Great British Drive In events at Sandon Hall.

Although cafes in Staffordshire are currently unable to allow customers to sit inside for refreshments under lockdown restrictions in force to combat coronavirus, Albert’s Café has been offering a takeaway service for park visitors in recent weeks.

Now the Stone-based company is hoping to expand the café’s refreshment range and activities when restrictions are lifted to include the sale of alcoholic drinks as well as live comedy and live and pre-recorded music, opening until 10.30pm Thursday to Sunday.

It is also proposing to stage events elsewhere in the park including theatre, film screenings and live performances and the sale of food and drink at certain events such as a Christmas market. Permission is being sought to allow these activities to take place between 8am and 11pm on any day of the week.

Stafford Borough Council’s licensing sub-committee is set to consider the application at a hearing on Wednesday.

Last month a new Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO) came into force for Stafford Borough, replacing a previous three-year order which was due to expire. The new order includes a ban on open alcohol containers in areas of Stafford town centre including Victoria Park.

In a licensing application put forward to the authority, Craig Wilkinson of the Great British Drive In Ltd said door supervisors would be in place at the park’s gates during any events taking place outside of the site’s usual opening hours. Additional events would be ticketed and include security, while staff working at the hot food concession near the children’s play area would be DBS-checked.

But concerns have been raised by a park visitor and the council’s own regulatory services department.

The objector said: “Over many years I have enjoyed the peace and tranquillity of Victoria Park. When in bloom the flower beds and greenhouse plants were a credit to the staff, to be able on a sunny day to sit and relax with a tea or coffee served in a china cup was a delight.

“With a degree of trepidation I watched the makeover of the park progress. However, with the passing of time what misgivings I had began to ebb away. Then the bombshell, an application for the granting of a liquor and entertainment licence for The Albert Café.

“Possession and consumption of alcohol in the park is unlawful for very good reasons. To suggest that alcohol served in the cafe will not be taken into the park at some time is based more on hope than reality.

“If funds have been secured to provide a cafe and instead been used to build a licensed restaurant this could be deemed a misuse of funds and unlawful. The opening times are already set and should be adhered to, otherwise the park will soon become a haven for the less agreeable element of society and an impediment to the park security.

“Having renovated the bandstand at considerable cost, that surely is the correct place for entertainment, not the cafe. To conclude it would appear that the park is to be used for the benefit of those running the cafe and not a facility to enhance the charm of the park.”

Lisa Harvey, regulatory services group manager at Stafford Borough Council, said: “Victoria Park is covered by a Public Space Protection Order, prohibiting the consumption of alcohol. I wish the PSPO to remain in place except for occasions authorised by the council.

“This application is for a premises licence for the whole of the park. Therefore if the premises licence itself authorises the supply of alcohol across the premises, and any part of the premises is being used for that purpose, it would appear that the PSPO will not have effect across the premises.

“Although I do not have an objection to the supply and/or consumption of alcohol in the cafe, I believe that the supply and/or consumption of alcohol in the rest of the park should be restricted by being conditioned to ensure the PSPO can remain in place except on occasions authorised in advance in writing by the Head of Operations following the receipt of a written request in advance from the premises licence holder.”

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