Consett pub that was closed down last year is denied alcohol licence extension

Chaplains on Front Street, Consett. Picture: Google.
Chaplains on Front Street, Consett. Picture: Google.

The operators of a bar linked to crime and disorder worries have blamed reduced booze sale hours for harming its business.

Chaplains on Front Street, Consett was temporarily closed less than a year ago as police felt it was "associated with serious crime and there was a significant risk to public safety", according to a police letter to the council.

Now it had just 10 punters on a Bank Holiday Saturday when they had to stop serving alcohol at 2am while revellers carried on drinking down the road, councillors heard.

The licensee requested permission to extend alcohol sales and other licensable activities until 3am Sunday to Thursday and 4am Fridays and Saturdays.

The venue previously had a licence until 4am, but it was closed in November 2021 following a review by Durham Police, said a police letter to Durham County Council.

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The bar was allowed to reopen - but had to stop serving alcohol at 2am - earlier this year.

Now, say police, applicant and licence holder James McDonald has asked to revert to the original licence times.

His solicitor Gillian Moir told the council's licensing sub-committee: "The reason they put in this application... is obviously mainly a financial one, in terms of the footfall at the bar.

"At midnight on a Saturday (August 27) on Bank Holiday weekend there were only 10 people inside.

"That's not sustainable as a business. My client's going to struggle to pay staff at that rate of customers."

She said those numbers were unusual before licensing hours were reduced: "They need to make that application to increase (the hours) so that the customers don't go down the road to the other bars that are essentially open later, at the moment taking the business from my client's premises."

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She said the request was not just to meet a business need: "Clearly there must be a need from the community if people are visiting other bars.

"They used to visit this bar when it was open later. My client's now finding that the people that used to come to this bar are now going elsewhere because those bars are open until they want to leave.

"My client has taken a lot of steps to make sure that they have sufficient policies in place... to ensure that this is a well-run premises."

Durham Police and the council's environmental health department objected to the request.

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Temporary Inspector Caroline Dickenson from Durham Police told the committee: "We do seriously have concerns around the venue and think if the licence were granted until 4am, there would be an increase in crime and disorder."

She said conditions had not been adhered to and objectives of public safety and preventing crime and disorder were not being promoted.

She said: "There's a number of incidents linked to this premises.

"There's two people who are currently being investigated."

Further "confidential and sensitive" details of the police's objections were heard in private by the licensing committee.

Later in the public hearing, Insp Dickenson referred to an alleged assault where someone was "hit in the face and lost a number of teeth".

She said in a written objection that late-night violent assaults happened in Consett because of longer opening hours, with patrons drinking excessively and harming the local community's quality of life.

"This has been proven when Chaplains had a licence till 4am."

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John Hayes, principal public protection officer from environmental health, wrote: "To grant such times is likely to give rise to... noise and public nuisance from patrons leaving the premises at times when local residents should hold a reasonable expectation to be able to sleep in peace.

"Supply of alcohol will be for consumption both on and off the premises, which is likely to increase the risk of disturbance."

He told the meeting: "The application would allow theoretically several hundred people if the premises was full."

Councillor Jan Blakey, chairing the committee, said they found no "compelling reason" to grant the request, and they refused to extend the hours.

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