Fate of Happy Valley bar which lost licence a familiar tale

Residents' complaints of rowdiness influence licensing board, but owners defend businesses

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 29 September, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 29 September, 2013, 4:07am

A decision by the Liquor Licensing Board not to renew the licence of a popular Happy Valley bar has illustrated the problems facing some bar owners.

The Happy Valley Bar and Grill lost its licence because of residents' complaints about noise made by the bar's customers. They also alleged it was serving alcohol outside its licensing area.

Four neighbours provided evidence at a licensing board hearing earlier this month that ended in the bar losing its liquor licence. Photographs were shown of a sports team drinking outside the bar, and neighbours made allegations of anti-social behaviour by rude and noisy patrons who regularly blocked the pavement.

But J. R. Robertson of El Grande Concepts, which owns the bar, said the accusations were unfair. The photographs were of a sports team drinking beer out of plastic glasses that he said were not served in his bar, and he argued the evidence was greatly exaggerated. An appeal will be heard on October 24.

"We have many letters of support from customers and also the backing of the police here in Happy Valley, who have never had to deal with any disturbances here and say we run a good establishment," Robertson said.

Bar owners in Soho face similar problems. Ram Ale, who for the past nine years has been the proprietor of Soho Corner on Staunton Street, understands the rigmarole some bars can go through. His liquor licence has just been approved for another year, but only after an appeal hearing on Friday.

The board had initially revoked his licence for four months after complaints similar to those levelled at the Happy Valley bar.

"We built door screens to help reduce the noise and we also received a lot of backing from the police who said we were doing a good job and not causing any nuisance," he said. "It's a big relief."

Another landlord on Staunton Street who preferred to remain anonymous said complaints of noise disturbance from residents were a worry, but that trading hours were also an issue.

"One main problem is that different establishments have different closing hours," he said.

The licensing board says it "[considers] each application on its individual merits and aims to balance the interest of legitimate commercial activities and that of the locality".