Hours row over St Albans city centre pub

The Snug Bar

The Snug Bar - Credit: Archant

Residents believe their concerns have been swept aside after the district council reached an out-of-court agreement with a city centre pub that its opening hours could be extended into the early hours of the morning.

An application by The Snug in French Row, St Albans, to remain open to sell alcohol until 2am every day but Sunday, was turned down by a district council licensing sub-committee in April.

Several residents went to the meeting to voice their concerns about noise and disruption as a result of the longer opening hours and the three-man sub-committee agreed that The Snug could only open until 2am on Fridays and Saturdays.

But residents learned last week that the owner had appealed against the decision and an agreement was reached between the pub and the council prior to a hearing before magistrates that it could open until 2am every night except Sunday.

The decision, taken in the face of residents’ concerns which had been taken into account by the licensing sub-committee, has infuriated people living in the city centre who are affected by the so-called night-time economy.

One of them, Jonathan Rodwell, hit out at the council for not being prepared to defend the sub-committee’s decision at a court hearing.

He said city centre residents often experienced a lot of shouting and noise into the early hours of the morning and feared that the decision on The Snug could set a precedent for other hostelries.

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He went on: “This is a dense residential area and these people have to move down residential streets or walk through the city centre when they leave.”

Jonathan questioned the point of democracy when a sub-committee decision which had taken account of residents’ concerns could be overruled so easily.

“It undermimes democracy and we are a democratic country. It has set a precedent and we will see other applications come in as a result of this.”

Jonathan maintained that because the policy was based on legal advice, the system was skewed towards the licensee and not the residents.

He urged local people to log disturbances with the council as keeping a personal diary of noise was not regarded as sufficient evidence.

Eric Roberts of St Albans Civic Society who was at the licensing sub-committee meeting said the objectors were not notified about The Snug’s appeal to the magistrates court and only learned about it after the decision was taken.

He said that there had been no material change in the situation since the sub-committee meeting but the concerns of residents had been swept aside once the council was threatened with an appeal.

The council’s legal services manager, Charles Turner, confirmed that the applicant had submitted an appeal to the magistrates court challenging the sub-committee decision.

He went on: “As part of the pre-hearing procedure, we considered the grounds of appeal, available evidence, residents’ earlier representations and proposals from the applicant and discussed these with members of the licensing sub-committee.

“The evidence showed that the council‘s regulatory services team had no record of noise complaints for a six-year period and the police had not received any complaints about disorder at the premises.”

Mr Turner stressed that the licence included noise prevention conditions including a no-admissions policy after 1am, the fitting of a noise limiter, noise monitoring by staff, a customer dispersal policy and a time limit on the use of the garden.

He added: “If in the future we receive noise complaints, supported by evidence, we will investigate a review of the licence terms.”

Residents who experience disturbance should contact the out of hours noise complaint number on 01727 811155 from 6pm to 3am on Friday and Saturday and a message can be left on that number during the week. Alternatively the licensing number can be used to log any concerns on 0777 0701 720.