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Plans to extend opening hours of Erith restaurant refused

PUBLISHED: 07:00 23 October 2018

The White Hart in Erith would have had the longest licence in the borough – open until 5am. Picture: Google

The White Hart in Erith would have had the longest licence in the borough – open until 5am. Picture: Google

Archant

Controversial plans to open an African restaurant for 18 hours a day next to retirement homes have been refused by councillors.

The White Hart in Erith, most recently known as Potion Bar, would have had the longest licence in the borough – open until 5am.

Nearly 80 residents objected to the proposals which would have allowed a DJ to operate at the High Street restaurant well into the early hours.

Neighbours, some of whom live in nearby retirement developments, said the long hours would cause a public nuisance, and become a magnet for anti-social behaviour in one of the borough’s crime hotspots.

The restaurant already has a “luxury” licence to open until 12.30am at weekends, but concerns were raised that the drastic changes could lead to the restaurant operating as a nightclub,

The police also had concerns, and the council’s licensing team told councillors it would be unacceptable to allow the restaurant such long hours in an area that is quiet past 9pm.

Councillor Nicola Taylor, an Erith councillor who spoke on behalf of her residents, said the restaurant – but not the hours – were welcome.

Cllr Taylor said: “Erith does welcome this restaurant to the area and the opening is much anticipated. We have followed the restoration of the historic building closely.

“However, this establishment is close to residential homes. Behind it there are two retirement developments, and there are family properties close.

“All of these residents would be impacted. All of the residents have expressed concerns over the increase of public nuisance. The town centre is quiet in the evening.

“Residents have a fear the area will become an area known for excessive drinking, possibly worse. It seems mad to have an establishment open for these hours. We have got to consider the community as a whole.”

The application was to extend the licence, and asked for booze and food to be sold and live music to be played up until 4.30am, and to include the basement under the new licence so music can be played there too.

The basement is currently a fire risk, so would have had to go through a separate planning process as well.

Stuart Gibson, acting on behalf of the applicant, said it was part of the culture for meals to go on for a long time – but it would not regularly be open for those hours.

Mr Gibson said: “It soon became clear the level of concern that neighbours had with people coming and going through the night, so the applicant said that nobody will gain entry after 11pm and he will employ a door supervisor to deal with that.

“This is an African restaurant. The applicant has told me that it is what his customers like to do, they make it an event, and people do come out and stay for a few hours. They embark on a whole meal experience.

“The extended hours would not be used every day, that would be business suicide. The feeling is that during the week, it would be about 12.30am, and the weekends longer because people spend more time having their event.

“It’s a restaurant full of tables, nothing that can be stripped into a nightclub. On occasion the lower level could be hired out and used for a private event – that’s the reason for the extended hours. It’s not a nightclub, no matter what is said.”

Councillors conferred for three hours before deciding to refuse the application.

The committee said that while it might be part of the African culture to eat and drink late, there were concerns about the impact of the long hours on public safety and nuisance.

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