Pub and bar operators should be prepared to make changes to the way they do business to secure extended opening hours, despite Westminster City Council suffering a rare defeat on a licensing appeal, experts have advised.
Fudge, a cocktail bar in Bear Street, just off London's Leicester Square, won an appeal just before Christmas to extend its opening hours and the sale of alcohol on the premises to 2am on Friday and Saturday, 1am on Thursday and midnight for the rest of the week.
At an initial sitting of the council's licensing committee last June, Fudge's application for extended opening hours was granted only to 1am on Friday and Saturday by a Westminster council renowned for stringently enforcing existing hours.
The bar's appeal victory sparked hope that it would be easier for operators to extend licensing hours, but James Anderson, partner at law firm Poppleston Allen, warned that it would not open the floodgates.
"Even though Westminster lost because of the nature of Fudge's exceptional circumstances, it will be just as hard for the next operator. You have to put in the work and show that your changes will have a positive impact on a stress area," he said."The problem with appeals is that if you lose you have to pay costs. It can be easier if you are an independent and you can demonstrate you have good control of your premises."
Fudge is only the third bar in Westminster, after Movida in Argyll Street and Zebrano in Ganton Street, to be granted extensions on appeal. The bar had to make serious concessions in its existing operations in order to push its opening hours beyond midnight. It has restricted its maximum occupancy from 200 to 110 and, despite having no objections from residents, it has no dancing or live music.
By Christopher Walton
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