The bowling green at Victoria Park could become the venue for family-friendly film shows, while live music is set to return to the bandstand.
The organisers of the Great British Drive In, which attracted thousands of visitors to open-air film screenings and performances at Sandon Hall during 2020, secured the contract to run the new Albert’s Café at Victoria Park when it reopened in October following a major restoration project
But an application for a licence to sell alcohol at the award-winning park sparked an objection from a visitor – who also spoke out against the use of the green for activities other than bowling.
On January 6, the council’s licensing sub-committee considered the application from the Great British Drive In Ltd and The Coalition Group Ltd to allow alcohol sales and activities such as live performances in the park.
Stafford Borough Council’s regulatory services department raised concerns about the lifting of the Public Spaces Protection Order in the park, which is currently in force banning open containers of alcohol.
Lisa Harvey, the authority’s regulatory services group manager, told Wednesday’s hearing: “I have no objection to the sale of alcohol. However, what we didn’t see was a clear plan which designates where the area for the events would be in the park.
“If an event is allowed to take place the PSPO would be suspended for the duration of the event. I would like to see a condition to allow the PSPO to remain in place at any other time.”
In a letter to the council the objector said: “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.
“Having renovated the bandstand at considerable cost that surely is the correct place for entertainment, not the cafe.”
But Craig Wilkinson, who applied for the premises licence, said: “We’re not setting up a rave in Albert’s Café – it’s not what we want to do.”
He added that the ideas for the café included a jazz night.
A plan presented to the panel on Wednesday indicated that the bandstand area was earmarked for events – but there could also be activities such as a competition for youngsters held in the skate park or film screenings at the bowling green. There would be no equipment set up on the grassed area of the green however to avoid causing any damage, the panel heard.
Mr Wilkinson told the hearing: “We have a background in events in the UK and the world. We have worked with the Sundance Festival and Premier League. We had over 70,000 people through the Sandon venue over six months and no cases of Covid-19 reported through track and trace – we ran a very safe event up there.
“We want to bring live music and comedy, spoken word and theatre, celebrate local produce and talent and work closely with the council and Friends of Victoria Park to bring events to life.
“At Albert’s Café we get our milk from a smallholding in Yarlet and bread from a bakery in Parkside. There is a vineyard in South Staffordshire, Nelsons Gin, Freedom Lager and many beers in the county we would like to celebrate.
“We will work regularly with the authority to make sure we are doing everything we can to make sure it is safe. Some of the things we want to do from an alcohol perspective is to supply mulled wine in the winter for example, or a glass of wine from Halfpenny Green in the summer.
“While there are people who don’t want alcohol there are others in the community who do want it and I am confident we can control it. We won’t be decanting alcohol for people to take away – it will be for people sitting on the terrace or in the café.”
The panel also heard that events taking place outside the park’s usual opening hours would include security staff on the gates.
The premises licence was granted by the committee subject to a number of conditions, including ID checks for anyone attempting to buy alcohol who appeared to be under the age of 25. At least 28 days’ notice must be given to the council ahead of any planned events.