The Spotted Bull was a small local pub with a large garden. The Brickyard capacity has been greatly enlarged by building of side and rear extensions that move the focus towards neighbouring residential properties in the Conservation Area (a Grade II listed terrace).
Alarm was first raised by subversion of proper planning procedure – successive updates of submitted plans, each more ambitious than before and with building proceeding ahead of permission (which was eventually refused by the Council and only regained on appeal to HM Planning Inspectorate as a fait accompli).
Since The Brickyard opened, neighbours have consistently objected to noise and rowdy behaviour from the outside areas, in part resulting from the conversion of an open grassy pub garden into a fully paved patio courtyard up against their garden boundaries, as well as to successive applications to increase capacity and usage still further. The enclosed space directs sound towards neighbours, especially when the full-width outer doors are propped open. Three separate Residents Associations have been involved in these objections.
The premises have not been operated as a local public house nor in accordance with initial promises for a ‘sophisticated champagne and tapas bar’ but as an open-air party venue. Some afternoon events, when the noise has been more like that of a country club, have made the use of nearby private gardens impossible without disturbance. It is insufficient to post small notices in the garden asking patrons to ‘respect the neighbours’ if the pervading culture of the premises is to ignore the real meaning of this.
Part of the licence application for the new extended building required the licensee to provide an Operational Procedure for how the premises would be run, which was written by the licensee and included apparent guarantees to avoid noise disturbance from the outside areas. Even so the first application in November 2014 was refused by a sub-committee (chaired by last year’s Mayor) because of doubts about the new extension as a source of noise disturbance, and was only granted on re-application.
Raucous late night parties throughout the summer of 2015 led to APRA calling for a Licence Review. The licensee was represented by a barrister and an Environmental Health Practitioner/ Expert Witness: neighbours represented themselves. The licensing sub-committee upheld the complaints (which were backed by sound recordings). It found the management culpable of Public Nuisance through a failure to implement its own operating guidelines. This shows that complaints received were considered evidence-based and not ‘vexatious’. The outcome was a change to the licence only in that the rear courtyard should be vacated and closed by 10 pm rather than 11 pm. During 2016, there have been far fewer complaints about noise than in 2015.
It is difficult to believe that the business has failed because the rear garden has to be closed one hour earlier, or because ambitious further development of the premises has been denied. It seems much more likely that the business model was flawed in terms of what was sustainable and appropriate on this site, and that neighbouring residents are not to blame.