Leisure bosses have been rebuked in their attempts to gain a 4am licence for a new bar opposite Newcastle’s Theatre Royal.
Last week we revealed how the playhouse feared that, if the 1,045 capacity Harry’s Bar and 750 space Baruba Bay beneath it were allowed to open well into the early hours, it could see the city’s Grey Street turned into a second Bigg Market, full of drunken disorder.
And now Newcastle City Council’s licensing committee have agreed and rejected the plans on the grounds of public safety and public nuisance.
Leader of Newcastle City Council, Coun Nick Forbes, speaking in his capacity as a councillor for Westgate ward, said: “I welcome the decision of the licensing committee.
“It is very important that any developments in Grey Street do not conflict with the licensing objectives, and continue to improve the quality of the night time economy for residents and visitors.”
Fellow Westgate ward councillor Geoff O’Brien said he was surprised that the companies behind the proposals had not worked more closely with the council – and found out earlier that an application for such a late license, for such a large venue, was likely to be rejected in an area where the cumulative impact of late night drinking is such an issue.
“It is well known in the city centre we are at saturation point in terms of licensed premises, and ideally we’d want to try and reign things in a bit,” he said.
“Allowing another big bar is not really the way we should go.
“I’m surprised the organisation didn’t have more of a chat with officers about the times they might more probably get.
“Another vertical drinking establishment is not what we need in the centre of town - you have to respect the fact that people live in the city centre and it would be a bit difficult to encourage more people to move in if we did nothing.”
When first proposed in November 2012 Harry’s Bar - in the former Big Optician, Saks hairdressers and Moben kitchen and bathroom store on Market Street, as well as the Vidal Sassoon salon on Grey Street - was to be called “Greys Cafe Bar.”
The original plan was to provide space for 275 seated diners, but the latest floor plans show space for 1,045 people above ground and 750 people in the interconnected Baruba Bay bar, in the former Legends nightclub below.
Two separate licence applications were made, with the lower bar - which the council’s planning officers suggest may be bigger than the planning permission granted for the listed building allows - seeking to show films, sell alcohol, play music between noon and 2am.
The application for the upper bar was even more extensive, seeking to allow the sale of booze from 10am to 3am, and play music until 4am.
That had drawn objections from neighbours, with residents in the Central Exchange building on the opposite side of Market Street saying they feared music, and particularly the bassline, could be heard in their homes - as it had been when Legends was open.
They also raised concerns that as thousands of people left the bar in the early hours and went home in taxis, the noise and headlights would be disruptive to sleep.
MP Chi Onwurah had also criticised the plans, calling Theatre Royal the “jewel in the crown” of Grey Street.
The company behind the Harry’s Bar plan, London Restaurants (Grey Street), and the basement plan, Cloth Market Newcastle Number 1, are both registered at the same address. Neither was available for comment.