Are neighbours trying to close down St Albans bar?

The Brickyard

The Brickyard - Credit: Archant

Disgruntled neighbours complaining about noise from a city centre bar have been accused of trying to close down the business after refusing to attempt mediation.

A residents group has asked the district council to review the premises licence of The Brickyard in Verulam Road, after being disturbed by patrons “screeching, laughing, singing and swearing”.

There has been unresolved tension between the venue’s owner, James Hanning, and locals living near his bar.

This stems from his initially unauthorised extension of the conservation area’s former pub, The Spotted Bull, closer to the boundaries of their homes last year.

In early January, a planning inspector ruled in James’s favour in his appeal against an enforcement notice issued by the district council, which had ordered him to remove a single storey side extension and additional rear extension.

After receiving the inspector’s approval, James went on to spend £22,900 installing acoustic foam into a wall to absorb noise, using double glazing and upgrading the air conditioning unit.

But his efforts have failed to appease residents, who have continued to complain to the council.

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Taking their fury a step further, the Abbey Precincts Residents Association (APRA) has now applied for a review of The Brickyard’s licence, claiming that the current operation of the bar “does not meet requirements for the prevention of public nuisance and public safety”.

It adds: “Since the opening of its radically extended and modified premises in November 2014, noise and customer activity at The Brickyard has transformed what was previously a peaceful area, causing disturbance to the lives of neighbouring residents.

“This is contrary to the conditions of the licence. The main problems are the behaviour of the clientele.”

APRA says there have been “numerous complaints from residents in College Street with respect to most weekends since the rear courtyard area came into routine use at the end of April 2015.

“The noise generated by customers includes shouting, screeching, raucous unrestrained laughter, singing and swearing, all of which can be heard in the adjacent private gardens.

“Similar noise problems apply to intoxicated clients outside the front door of the premises and in the vicinity when leaving at up to 1am.

“Even after this noise has died down, there has been inconsiderate disturbance after most Saturday nights by staff clearing tables and chairs in the rear courtyard and banging the rear doors up to 01.30 hours.”

APRA says there are “public safety issues on the pavement outside the front door as well as intrusive and objectionable crowd noise from the outside areas of the premises.”

However James, whose attempt to join APRA was declined, says he feels “harassed” by residents when he is “trying to run a legitimate business”.

He added: “Ten months into trading, The Brickyard is £70,000 worse off than if it had simply opened as a classic pub and traded for the benefit of the more mainstream customers of the city.

“We have made compromises that lose us the potential benefits from opportunities undertaken by our competitors [such as] karaoke, discos, cheap drink offers and live bands.”

James asked neighbours to join him in using independent mediation service, the Alban Resolution Centre, to move forward, but that was rebuffed, as APRA felt the council was the “most appropriate body to address issues”.

The group also declined James’s offer to engage an acoustic expert to take noise measurements from neighbouring properties for the same reason.

James said: “I feel exhausted. They are trying to close me down. St Albans wants to encourage a visitor economy, but the reality is we have NIMBYs who try and shut down anyone who invests in the city.”

Robert Pankhurst, secretary of APRA, denied the group was trying to close the venue down. He said residents were concerned about increased noise, particularly from the rear garden, adding, “It used to be a very quiet local pub”.

People have until November 20 to comment on the licence review application - a hearing date has not yet been set.