View of Java Whiskers cat cafe on Great Portland Street from outside of the premises.
Java Whiskers on Great Portland Street. Permission has been granted to extend the area where alcohol can be consumed on the premises. Photo: Fitzrovia News.

A cat café has won permission to enlarge the area it can sell alcohol for consumption on the premises, despite concerns from neighbours who fear that the business could turn into a bar.

Java Whiskers on Great Portland Street has been given permission to sell alcohol in the basement of the café.

Neighbours had responded to the licensing application saying it would increase “noise nuisance” on the street which they say is otherwise relatively quiet.

A licensing report shows the business already had a licence to stay open from 9am to 10pm seven days a week. It also had permission to sell alcohol on the ground floor of the premises but wanted to extend this to the basement.

But some locals said the cafe shouldn’t be allowed to sell alcohol underground, claiming it would disturb their “peaceful” corner of the city.

One local resident said in a letter to the council: “While the area supports a number of businesses in the daytime, the nights are relatively quiet and peaceful, which is well appreciated by the people who live here… The hours proposed are well outside what is “normal” for the area.

“There is huge potential to be a public nuisance and the proposed changes would disturb any residents locally… I fail to see how this level of beverage service is required for a cat shelter — it would appear to be indicative of the owners seeking to turn the premises into a bar.”

A representative for a nearby housing block said they were worried that the café would be a nuisance for local residents if the licence was granted. In a letter to the council, they said: “We are concerned about any change in business practices which may disturb our residents and many neighbours as we have enjoyed living in this very quiet corner of Fitzrovia outside the traditional rush hours for decades.”

They added: “We are unable to understand the need for anyone needing a drink from 9am to 10pm seven days per week to stroke a cat or decide to rescue/give a cat a home.”

A spokesperson for Java Whiskers said customers can only stay there for a maximum of two hours and they can’t take alcohol outside the café. She also said the business has previously hosted a few hen parties “without any issues.” She added: “There’s no possibility for them to have bottles and bottles of alcohol. We don’t really have people getting drunk and going outside.”

The cats at Java are homeless but the business aims to pair them with adoptive parents. The current menu includes alcoholic drinks like wine and lager. The licensing report also said customers must book a visit to Java Whiskers in advance. 

A Westminster City Council licensing sub-committee — consisting of Councillor Maggie Carman (Chair), Councillor Md Shamsed Chowdhury and Councillor Caroline Sargent — approved the licence at a meeting on Thursday 4 August but added additional conditions to the licence “to promote [the Council’s] licensing objectives”.

Westminster Council Licensing Sub-Committee (2) – Thursday 4th August, 2022 10.00 am.

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