Sunderland bar wins 5am alcohol licence despite police objections
A new city bar has won a licence to serve alcohol up to 5am despite Northumbria Police concerns over a rise in assaults and drunken behaviour.
Sunderland City Council’s licensing sub-committee backed a new application for the venue in Vine Place in Sunderland city centre.
The 450-capacity space has changed hands several times in recent years and was last occupied by former German-themed bar Bavaria.
Applicant Chris Bungoni – who opened city centre venue P’s and Q’s last year – aims to attract top acts to the space with the new venture.
The agreed alcohol licence covers noon-3am, Sunday to Thursday and noon-5am on Friday, Saturday and Bank Holidays – with closing times ruled as 3.30am and 5.30am respectively.
Northumbria Police objected to the original 6am weekend licence application over crime fears, with times reduced by the applicant on request.
Despite this, the force called for the application to be refused in its current form unless alcohol sales were limited to 3am seven days a week.
Sgt Maria Ord said that due to current shift patterns, a later licence would impact the work of the Sunderland Central policing team.
Speaking at Sunderland Civic Centre, she said: “We will have that increased demand coming out at a later time and it will bring disorder, more drunken people and more vulnerable people into the city centre.”
She added that several other venues in the city centre had late alcohol licences but that 5.30am closing time almost stretched to the next working day.
Mr Bungoni told the committee the venue would be “well managed” with a “lot of time, effort and thought process to creating a safe night out”.
This would include the venue providing “industry passes” for people working in Sunderland’s nightlife economy to claim discounts at the new bar.
“When it comes to venues, a lot are money-orientated and that’s where you have problems. We’re looking at it from a different perspective,” he said.
He added that he was planning to sign a 15-year lease for the venue and if the alcohol licence was rejected he would “cut his losses now and call it a day”.
During their decision, councillors weighed up evidence from police and the applicant against council licensing policies giving guidance on alcohol sales and promoting culture/boosting the night time economy.
A council legal officer, reading the decision, said there was a lack of evidence to reject the application with late licence hours allowing people to leave the city centre in a “staggered way”.
The new Vine Place venue will also follow the path of similar bars in Newcastle and Middlesbrough by adopting minimum alcohol pricing policy, the committee heard.
The applicant stated this would only lapse when holding a weekday student night in future.
Southern Area Command’s Chief Inspector, Christopher Grice, said he was “dissapointed” with the decision but will continue to work with partners and businesses to “ensure the safety of the public”.
“Protecting the public is our overriding priority and officers raised a number of concerns to the council regarding this application,” he added.
“Previous research shows that establishments staying open until the very early hours of the morning can have a significant bearing on the likelihood of crime being committed.
“It is our view that granting this late licence could undermine our crime prevention objective, and as a consequence may lead to an increase in public order offences, disorderly conduct and drunken behaviour in Sunderland city centre.”
Northumbria Police have a 21-day window to appeal Sunderland City Council’s decision if they choose to do so.
Chris Binding , Local Democracy Reporting Service