A Camden Council licensing panel has approved a late night licence for a fast food restaurant and takeaway in Goodge Street in the face of opposition from local residents who argued that the premises would cause a noise nuisance.
Cheatmeals opened at 33 Goodge Street in October and asked to extend its hours from 11pm to serve late night refreshments until 2am the following morning on Mondays to Saturday and until midnight on Sundays.
At the licensing panel held on 7 December, councillors Gio Spinella (Chair), Lorna Greenwood, and Jonathan Simpson were asked to consider the application.
The licensing officer reported that 16 representations had been received opposing the application but the Police Responsible Authority and the Licensing Responsible Authority had withdrawn their objections after the applicant had agreed to extra conditions on the management of the business, including installing CCTV, and a number of crime and noise prevention measures.
The Police Authority had originally recommended that the premises should close no later than midnight, but were persuaded otherwise by the applicant who offered the extra conditions.
The Licensing Authority had recommended that the premises close at 1am from Monday to Saturday, as they believed “operating until 2am six days a week is obsessive (sic) and will have an adverse effect to the community, by the way of public nuisance”.
However, objections were maintained by Bloomsbury ward councillor Adam Harrison, the Charlotte Street Association, and 12 local residents.
Three residents from Goodge Street and Colville Place addressed the licensing panel and spoke of their fears of noise nuisance if the venue was allowed to stay open late.
They argued that Fitzrovia has a very different character to other parts of the West End with the evening and night time economy ending earlier than it does south of Oxford Street. Families co-exist here “quite happily cheek-by-jowl” with local businesses which are busy in the daytime and early evening but start to wind down after 10.30pm.
The residents feared that allowing a late licence would create a noise nuisance from people arriving and leaving the venue, delivery drivers arriving, leaving and loitering around the premises, and that it could set a precedent attracting further late night businesses into the street.
The residents also criticised the behaviour of the owner of Cheatmeals for having an opening night party on 26 October which included a publicity stunt and social media event involving “supercars” being parked illegally on the pavement and blocking the way of pedestrians — something the owner of Cheatmeals denied he had anything to do with.
The licensing panel was told that the business was also causing a noise nuisance to residents at the rear in Colville Place because of a new ventilation and extraction system that had been installed.
Goodge Street residents were also concerned about light pollution from the premises and that no planning permission had been applied for or granted for a new shopfront and illuminated signage.
The residents said the way the business has operated so far did not bode well for the future.
However Cheatmeals lawyer Sarah Clover interrupted the deputation from residents to say that many of the comments being made were about planning matters and not licensing considerations.
In support of the residents the Charlotte Street Association told the licensing panel that “a late night takeaway is not appropriate for this relatively small and intimate street” with its large number of people living here.
The CSA said there are many flats above the ground floor retail units with around 50 homes between the junction of Whitfield Street and Charlotte Street. They said the takeaway “will be winding up when the street is winding down” and will inevitably cause a disturbance just when people are going to bed.
The CSA argued that the application should be refused because allowing it would cause a public nuisance to people living nearby.
Speaking in support of the application, Cheatmeals’ lawyer Sarah Clover said the premises is part of a franchise which has 11 branches and five of them have late licences. She argued that the residents’ characterisation of their neighbourhood was at odds with the Police and the Licensing Authority which described it as busy and vibrant.
She pointed out that Cheatmeals had offered extra conditions, and because of this both the Police and Camden’s Licensing Authority had withdrawn their objections.
Clover argued that the business had been open since October, is an important addition to the local economy, and is “respectful of their neighbours” and there had been no complaints to the Licensing Authority.
However, there had been a complaint made to the council about the opening night due to the noise from people gathered outside, the revving of the supercar engines, and the blocking of the pavement. Cllr Adam Harrison in his written submission also stated that residents had “raised noise complaints”. But the complaints were not recorded by licensing officers in the report presented to the licensing panel.
Dealing with the residents’ comments about the opening night, Clover said the issue of the supercars parked on the pavement “was ultimately the responsibility of the people with the supercars”.
However, Cheatmeals’ own social media accounts showed promotional footage of the opening with supercars parked on the pavement in front of the restaurant with a performer sat on the bonnet of one and speaking to the camera.
Photos of two supercars and one vintage American car blocking the pavement were submitted with the written objections made by residents.
Councillor Jonathan Simpson asked the applicant for clarification about the opening event and about the cars parked on the pavement.
Yasin Allam, Cheatmeals head of operations, told the licensing panel that the supercars on the pavement was nothing to do with his business and he had “no control over where these cars were parked”. He said the opening party was a private event, ended at 10pm to avoid disturbing the neighbours, and also had security staff on duty.
Councillor Gio Spinella asked about the volume of customers expected between 11pm and 2am and what sort of vehicles delivery drivers would be using.
Allam said he expected customer footfall to Cheatmeals to be low late at night and most business will be via delivery drivers. He said they were an Uber Eats exclusive operation and he had no control of whether drivers used bicycles or motor scooters.
Councillor Lorna Greenwood asked why Cheatmeals had chosen this location to have a late licence when only five of their other premises open late.
Allam replied that it was a strategic business decision to open an outlet in central London.
In summing up the residents argued that operating until 2am was not acceptable due to the number of people living nearby and for this reason the application should be refused.
For the applicant, Clover argued that the business had proven it could be well run and that residents’ fears about what might happen in the future was not backed up with any evidence. She asked the panel to approve the application in full.
During the panel’s brief deliberation on the application Cllr Greenwood and Cllr Simpson said it was “significant” that both the Police and the Licensing Authority had withdrawn their objections.
Cllr Simpson also commented that many of the concerns related to matters of planning enforcement and encouraged the residents to instead seek a solution from Camden’s planning department.
Cllr Spinella agreed and said that it was the consensus of the panel to grant the application.
The licensing panel approved the application for Late Night Refreshment until 2am Monday to Saturday and until midnight on Sunday, but insisted that silencers and acoustic ceiling insulation is installed to cut noise from the extractor fan.
The eatery must also do a risk assessment after two months to see if it needs door security staff.