Webcast montage of councillors Eddie Hanson, Sabrina Francis, and Jonathan Simpson.
Camden Licensing Panel D: Cllr Eddie Hanson (chair), Cllr Sabrina Francis, and Cllr Jonathan Simpson. Image: Camden Council webcast.

A new wine merchant, tasting school and wine bar can open in a former bakers’ shop in an eighteenth century residential building in Warren Street, despite concerns it could disturb families in social housing nearby.

Applicant Chris Cassell told a Camden licensing panel on 15 June there will be a strong focus on education at the business in Warren Street and he has taken steps to avoid disturbing residents.

He applied for a premises licence in April to sell alcohol for consumption both on and off the premises on the ground floor and basement at 57 Warren Street.

His company Must and Lees already runs wine tasting courses and sells bottles of wine at a residential area in Barnsbury.

“I love wine, an understanding of wine can lead you into geography and different cultures,” he told councillors on the licensing panel.

Four nearby residents objected and said the street has become increasingly noisy as new venues have opened.

One wrote to say the street has “a ‘canyon effect’ where noise at ground level becomes amplified at the floors above. Even small numbers of people are able to make an impact due to the nature of the environment, those under the influence of alcohol are prone to become even noisier and inconsiderate.”

Another resident wrote in to say that with already many licensed venues on the street “another licensed property on the street is not necessary nor desirable.”

One resident wrote to the council in support and said it “will add to the character of the improving area and by occupying the building with a suitable use it will prevent degradation from an empty building which might attract anti-social behaviour. ”

View from street of shopfront where a wine shop and wine bar is proposed.
Must and Lees can open a wine shop, tasting school, and wine bar in a shop at 57 Warren Street. Photo: Fitzrovia News.

He said the applicants “have given good regard to how the premises will be operated and have proposed good measures to ensure the premises will be well-run.”

Linus Rees spoke on behalf of the Charlotte Street Association and residents nearby, including a family with a young child.

Rees, who is also editor of Fitzrovia News, said the wine tasting classes in the basement and the off-licence on the ground floor are unlikely to have much negative impact but feared the wine bar part of the business could disturb residents.

He asked the licensing panel to refuse permission for drinking on the premises and to limit the closing time of the business to 7pm from Monday to Saturday, and for no trading to be allowed on Sundays and public holidays, to minimise disturbance to the tenants in social housing above and near to the property.

“I think it’s wholly unsuitable to have a wine bar in the premises,” he said.

As the building dates to the eighteenth century he pointed out that “these flats are poorly sound insulated and rely on the front windows for ventilation. They are typical of many street properties in the area.”

He said the wine bar “is of greatest concern” with space for customers inside and outside and the opening hours are “unreasonable”.

“It is inevitable that with a wine bar there will be some kind of nuisance.”

He asked the panel to reject the sale of alcohol for consumption on the premises “to balance the interests of expected business activity with the right of nearby residents to the quiet enjoyment of their homes.”

Rees also suggested banning customers drinking wine outside and suggested a number of conditions to limit the operation of the business.

He also questioned why there had been no representation submitted by the police authority, licensing authority, or Camden’s housing department considering there are tenants from the Camden housing list living above the premises.

He said the tenants in social housing in Warren Street are often living under difficult conditions and they were only housed there as they were in priority need. He argued they needed respite from the often noisy business activity along Warren Street.

Applicant Chris Cassell said the different revenue streams were “essential to the business” in Warren Street.

Outdoor tables would close earlier than indoors, he said to avoid disturbing residents.

He said: “It is a mixed-use street,” and pointed out several restaurants have seats on the street.

“I have gone for timings that are significantly lower than everyone else on the street.”

He explained he has taken steps to avoid problems, with the latest closing hour at 10pm on Fridays and Saturdays.

It would be open between 10am and 9pm on Mondays to Wednesdays and noon to 6pm on Sundays.

“We focus on wine education and we have an absolute zero tolerance on drunkenness,” said Mr Cassell.

He said the venue also has spittoons so people can taste wine responsibly and offers free water, and deliveries will be limited to day time hours.

The venue also has “extremely limited seating” and he said it would not be a wine bar.

“It’s not an environment for people to get drunk in. It’s an environment for people to sit down and try wines,” he said.

He told Camden’s licensing committee: “There’s a strong argument that we can create an environment that is less nuisance than an unlicensed premises such as a coffee shop.”

He added: “I’m really trying to create an environment that works for everyone.”

He added environmental health and the police made no comments.

“I spent time trying to put everything I could think of and added more when speaking to residents.”

The licensing panel of Cllrs Eddie Hanson, Sabrina Francis, and Jonathan Simpson made a number of comments in favour of the application during their deliberation.

Cllr Francis said that she grew up in social housing next to a pub and that “we were not uniquely troubled by it as a family in social housing”.

Referring to Rees’s concern for the social housing tenants, she said it “was a little bit much to presume that the noise would be worse” for social tenants as opposed to private tenants.

The licensing panel unanimously approved the application.

Additional reporting by Linus Rees, editor.

Camden Council: Licensing Panel D – Thursday, 15th June, 2023 7.00 pm. View the webcast.