New lease of life for St Albans cocktail bar, The Brickyard, after closure
PUBLISHED: 06:00 13 January 2017
After his cocktail bar ended up on the rocks following noise complaints, the owner of a renovated inner city pub has served up a neat way of dealing with bitter neighbours.
Businessman James Hanning is to give his local a new lease of life – by turning The Brickyard in Verulam Road, St Albans, into a five-bedroom house.
The Herts Advertiser has for several years published the highs and lows of the venue, which was closed suddenly in September last year after James admitted defeat, complaining that there were “too many obstacles to running a successful hospitality business in St Albans”.
James spent half a million pounds restoring and expanding the former derelict Spotted Bull pub, including installing expensive sound insulation.
But he blamed a small core of ‘NIMBY’ neighbours who were both shaken and stirred by noise from the cocktail bar and kept district council officers busy after lodging a barrage of complaints.
Rather than drown his sorrows over the brewing hostility, however, James asked the council to approve a change of use, to let him turn the bar into a five-bedroom home.
This follows the near-completion of renovations to his current house, which he intends selling to pay off debts before moving to Verulam Road.
And he reports that all is now ‘ale and hearty as neighbours have supported his bid to turn the venue into a house.
In his planning application, James said he acquired the run-down pub in the conservation area, after “the previous three owners [had] gone out of business. The building was badly decayed.”
Nearby residents in College Street said they supported conversion of The Brickyard, particularly “given that successive licensees have been unable to run the premises profitably and without causing disturbance to neighbours”.
Details of the pub’s history show that there were four freehold cottages on the site in 1832.
But by the late 19th century, three had been amalgamated and converted to create a public house,
Last week council planning staff used delegated powers to approve the change of use from a drinking establishment to residential.
After the latest twist in the cocktail bar saga, a happy James said that he welcomed the approval and hoped to move into the premises by this Christmas.
He added: “I’m going to continue having it called The Brickyard and the exterior will stay as it is. The only changes are internal, and it will be a family home.”
James said that developers had approached him about buying his business, “but they weren’t offering a good price”.
In the meantime, a bar he opened in Hitchin in September last year is “going really well, and trade is already up 50 per cent. We have even had former regulars from St Albans visit, which has made our team feel great, as it means they haven’t lost complete contact with local people.”