By Nigel Packer
A derby restaurateur has slammed police and magistrates for refusing to allow him to extend his licensed area to a private outside courtyard.
Gary Thompson described the decision as "absolutely ludicrous" and called for licensing laws to be "brought more in touch with the times".
The 110-seat Tonic restaurant and bar in the city centre had been trading for six months when it applied to extend its licence to the courtyard, which can seat a further 80 people.
"Under the terms of the existing licence, we could have operated the courtyard unlicensed by asking customers to purchase alcohol, with or without food, at the bar prior to taking a seat on the terrace," said Thompson, managing director of the Brasserie Business, which owns Tonic.
However, he added: "We felt this approach would be inconsistent with the upmarket feel of the venue, so applied for the extension, which would allow alcohol to be brought by table service only."
Despite support from the local authority, magistrates refused the application after objections from the local police. A spokesman said there were concerns over risks to public order, and the proliferation of licensed premises in the city centre.
"We've been trading without any problems, and have also suggested numerous conditions to meet any police concerns," said Thompson. "A situation where people are buying drinks at a bar and carrying them out to tables is going to create a less satisfactory atmosphere than one where they are served at tables."
He hopes that the ongoing Government review of licensing laws "will make the decision-making process on granting licences not only more streamlined, but less subjective".