St Albans pub loses bid to extend licence

A PUB has had its request for longer opening hours and more live entertainment turned down at a hearing last week.

The new owner of The Great Northern in London Road, which is now known as McGowans, wanted to extend alcohol sales until 3pm and close half-an-hour later seven nights a week, and to have live and recorded music indoors between 9am and 3am and outdoors up until midnight.

Owner John McGowan also wanted to extend his licence in a number of other areas including dance performances, boxing and wrestling and adult entertainment.

At present, the pub is allowed to supply alcohol up until 12.30am on a Friday and Saturday night and until 11.30pm on other days.

Live music can be played inside between 8pm and 12am Friday and Saturday and up until 11pm on all other days, and recorded music is allowed inside until 1pm on Friday and Saturday nights and until midnight on other days.

In a statement submitted to the hearing, police licensing officer Pc John Cooper ran through the history of the pub before it was taken over by Mr McGowan, which included details of a serious drunken assault involving a man’s ear being bitten off.

He said the witnesses met the subsequent investigation with an “anti-police approach and an oath of silence” which resulted in the suspect escaping charge.

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While Pc Cooper said the pub was no longer a ‘safe haven’ for locally banned violent individuals, he said that there were still incidents which had caused him concern and led him to object the application in its entirety.

They included a visit from a licensing officer who found a young woman in the garden passionately kissing a man before she emerged as the person in charge, allegedly intoxicated, unable to speak much English and allowing a man to smoke in the pub.

The hearing was also told that the pub had recently allowed acoustic guitarists to play in the back garden which Mr McGowan did not think was a breach of the rules as the music wasn’t amplified.

But the district council’s principal licensing officer Lesley Cameron said that was not the case and insisted that the lack of knowledge proved that Mr McGowan didn’t understand the current terms of his licence. Also supplied was evidence from an officer in the Metropolitan Police who said that there had a number of breaches at the premises that Mr McGowan owns in London.

Sergeant Debbie O’Malley put forward the arguments from the police at the hearing held in the district council chamber last Thursday.

She said that allowing the application would compromise the work undertaken by the police to reduce alcohol-related crime and disorder around the London Road area and she also cited road safety, the well-being of children living in houses behind the premises and unsuitable CCTV coverage among her concerns.

Representations were also heard from ward councillor Jack Pia and St Albans Civic Society stalwart Eric Roberts, who both argued the extended licence would cause a dramatic increase in noise to the residential community at the rear of the premises.

Defending his application, Mr McGowan said he wanted to bring entertainment and good food to premises with a negative history and to help revitalise the area in line with the ongoing cinema project. He insisted that he was moving the pub in the right direction and had a refurbishment planned to make it a “major player.”

Mr McGowan also said he agreed the hours he had applied for were long but said he only intended to use them on an ad hoc basis and he also stressed that he was happy to compromise over the terms of the licence.

The panel, made up of chairman councillor Tony Swendell and his colleagues Eileen Harris and Allen Chamberlain, refused the application, citing their reasons as concerns about noise for surrounding residents and examples of recent breaches in the current licence.