Violence fears scuppers cocktail bar plan for Walsall town centre

Plans to open an upmarket cocktail bar in Walsall have been scuppered amid fears it would add to the booze-fuelled violence in the town centre.

Leicester Street, in Walsall Town Centre. PIC: Google Street View
Leicester Street, in Walsall Town Centre. PIC: Google Street View

Walsall Council’s licensing sub committee turned down an application by Ace Cocktail Bar to open up in part of the old Hog’s Head pub building in Leicester Street at a hearing on Wednesday.

Applicants Navine Baker and the designated premises supervisor Donoval Kenrick, said they wanted to offer something different as well as creating up to 15 new jobs and boosting the town centre.

They had also agreed to a raft of conditions before the hearing, including closing at 11pm – long before the hours where most of the issues occurred.

But West Midlands Police said the location was already saturated with licensed premises and sat in a cumulative impact zone, adding they were having to deal with issues at all times of weekend evenings.

These included assaults in Leicester Street in April and May, an incident in March where a man took a knife from a nearby takeaway at around 11.10pm, and, on June 11 at 10.20pm where police had to break up a fight between six women.

Jennifer Mellor, Walsall’s licensing and regulatory services officer, said the force had deployed more resources in the area and were in the process of changing shift patterns to ensure officers were on duty up to 5am on weekends.

The bar was also opposed by Walsall Pubwatch and resident Parmjit Lakhar who lives in the apartments above.

She said: “I’ve got a bird’s eye view of the crime that happens. It happens throughout the day. I already have issues due to the noise with music being played until 4am.

“Once the venues close, the public do not go home. My flat is in a listed building so we can’t get double glazing.

“I’ve seen fights, people urinating in the corners, seen police get abused on a daily basis and strongly believe having another pub, especially on that street will just cause havoc.

“Sometimes I’m scared to leave my apartment because of the crime. The noise is diabolical. I’m not sleeping on some occasions and it is affecting my health. I cannot see it adding value.

“I’m trying to sell my apartment. It’s hard enough as it is so having another pub underneath will not help my cause.”

Mrs Baker said their venture would not be a pub with the venue being open during the day serving tea and finger foods while the cocktails would attract a new clientèle to the area.

She said: “We’re not establishing a pub or a club. It’s a lounge and a bar with background noise.

“We’ve agreed from changing closing times from 12 to 11pm and we will take on board all recommendations and work with the licensing authorities, the police, Pubwatch to ensure the business is a success for Walsall.

“We are hoping everyone realises we need to work together to allow people like us to adapt and provide exciting and dynamic new concept. Otherwise we will just be left with boarded up units on our high streets.

“It is something we are trying to introduce to Walsall that is different and will attract increased footfall within the retail shopping centre and create jobs.”

Her colleague Mr Kenrick added: “I implore you based on what you have heard to give us a fair opportunity to contribute to the development of Walsall town centre.

“In the words of the chief police officer himself, he said the current climate of people come out late and don’t come out until about midnight. We would be closing before that.

“We’ve seen over time, Walsall has become derelict. Businesses are leaving because of online presence and with the risk of what’s going on in terms of the financial crisis, we’re taking a risk to introduce and create jobs.

“There is an opportunity for us to grow this town and show people Walsall is a brilliant town and we have good people living there and that we can compete with any other town or city.”

The sub-committee concluded they were impressed with the “responsible and professional” approach of the applicants but added they had failed to demonstrate how their new venture would not have a negative impact on the cumulative impact policy so refused to grant a licence.

Top Stories

More from the Express & Star

UK & International News