An application to increase the capacity of a proposed private members club in Fitzrovia is meeting with strong opposition from residents, community groups and local councillors who say it will create a late-night noise nuisance. The application for the premises at 19 Newman Street will be discussed by a Westminster council licensing committee at City Hall this week.
The club currently has planning permission and an existing licence to open from 7am until midnight Sunday to Thursday and from 7am until 3am Friday to Saturday, but has yet to be opened and the owner is still looking for someone to run the place. The club would be in the basement of Newman Street and partly on the first floor of a building in Newman Passage. There are several residential buildings opposite and on the same side of the street.
The application is to vary the premises licence and has been submitted by Mr Amin Thobani and his company Mimi’s Bars Limited. The licence variation is to add the exhibition of films, performance of dance and to change the layout so as to increase the capacity from 150 to 280 persons.
Solicitors Jeffrey Green Russell have written a statement in support of the application saying that various changes to the current premises licence are needed to make the proposed private club more financially viable. The statement says that a management plan and conditions offered by Thobani would prevent any public nuisance, crime and disorder. The application includes a noise impact assessment and a transport analysis.
The application has been supported by four local businesses and one resident who say the private members club will enhance the appeal of the street for both residents and visitors.
The building directly opposite the premises is residential and is leased as a whole to The City of Westminster as hostel accommodation. Many of the residents who live in self-contained bedsit rooms are transient and have social, medical or psychiatric problems. However, the freehold of the building is owned by JMS Estates (IOM) Limited and the building manager Mr Charles Ajuzie has written in support of the increased capacity saying “we want to show our full support for the application and we hope that the licensing team at Westminster grants the variation”.
Objections to the application have been received from two local councillors, Fitzrovia Neighbourhood Association, Fitzrovia West Neighbourhood Forum, one local business, and 16 residents. Their concerns are about the noise nuisance from people and vehicles arriving and leaving between 11pm and 3am.
Significantly the variation is being opposed by Councillor Glenys Roberts who previously had supported the applicant both at the planning stage and the original licence application. Cllr Roberts told local residents she had supported the applicant because doing so would help the viability of the sub post office on the ground floor of the same building and also run by Mr Thobani. However, the post office closed at the end of last year and there is now a planning application to change the shop to a beauty parlour.
In her statement Cllr Roberts says “I do not support this subsequent proposal to increase the numbers [of people]. I am aware that local residents, some of whom live directly opposite, do not want to see a significant increase in late night activity on Newman Street leading to possible nuisance and disorder”.
Councillor Paul Church wrote an objection saying a late licence at this venue should never have been given in the first place due to the proximity of nearby residents. “Newman Street is a residential street in Fitzrovia and I, alongside many local residents were astounded that the original application was passed, so I find it astonishing that the applicants now wish to almost double the capacity.”
Wendy Shillam chair of the Fitzrovia West Neighbourhood Forum said in a letter objecting to the application that now is an opportunity to reconsider the use of the premises. “Residents take no confidence, from the way these applications have been handled so far, that further still more damaging concessions will not be sought in the future if the club is not successful. We believe that, now that the ground floor is available, this is an excellent opportunity to reconsider from scratch alternative uses for the whole space which could be economically viable, and could meet our aim for the area of bringing new and interesting businesses in, without causing nuisance to neighbouring residents.”
Westminster City Council licensing sub-committee will hear the application on Thursday 22 January and is expected to make a decision the same day.
Update 22 January 2015: The licensing sub-committee today approved the application but with conditions including limiting the capacity to 215 persons (excluding staff).