A Rye cafe has been granted a licence to serve alcohol despite neighbours objecting over concerns about noise and disturbance.
Following a hearing on Friday (May 31), a Rother District Council licensing panel granted a premises licence to The Fig in High Street – potentially allowing it to serve alcohol with food up until 10pm.
Owner Rosie Furnival told the panel she intended the cafe to be ‘an asset to the town’.
She said: “We are hoping to get an alcohol licence as we think it is a pity not to be able to offer people a bucks fizz at a Saturday brunch or a glass of wine or beer with their lunch. We do lose quite a few customers due to that not being available.
“We also plan to apply for planning permission to open in the evenings during weekends over the busy summer periods. Trying to find a table for dinner in these months in Rye is near impossible and I honestly do believe it will be an asset to the town.
“We don’t want to become a bar. Not in any sense. No one will be permitted to drink without eating and no one is going to be getting drunk and behaving badly.”
She added that the cafe would be aiming to create a ‘relaxed, family-friendly, evening scene where people can enjoy fresh healthy food and a drink or two if they desire’.
Despite Ms Furnival’s aims, the application had proven controversial with neighbours, with several objecting to the scheme due to concerns around public nuisance.
The neighbours had raised a range of concerns, including noise from drinkers and disturbance from smokers potentially congregating around the front door.
Alison Taylor, whose family home neighbours the cafe, said: “As a neighbour we’ve got no issues with The Fig operating within in its planning consent as a tea room.
“The area surrounding The Fig is mainly residential in nature. Most of the shops in the immediate vicinity close at 5pm.
“Background noise is currently very low. If The Fig is to secure an alcohol licence for seven days a week this would completely change the environment.
“There would be no respite from the noise coming from the front of the premises, the back of the premises and potentially through the party wall.
“This noise nuisance will disturb the currently very quiet nature of the immediate surrounding area, which is really important to our quality of life.”
Concerns were also raised about rubbish being left outside of the cafe for collection, with neighbours saying bags were often ripped apart by seagulls and strewn outside their homes.
Neighbours also reported these collections taking place as early as 5am, waking them and causing a noise nuisance.
Ms Furnival said she had been seeking to address these issues with the bin collections by seeking a new company to collect her business waste, adding that she ‘felt let down’ by the previous operator.
The neighbours also argued the cafe would be operating outside of its planning permission – in which it is limited to operating as a ‘tea shop’ – but were told this would not be a valid licensing objection.
Ms Furnival had initially applied for a seven-day licence, which would have allowed the cafe to sell alcohol between 10am and 11pm Monday to Saturday and between 10am and 10pm on Sundays.
However, she told the panel she did not intend to operate these hours, only opening for a few evenings per week during the summer months, and was seeking the longer licence in order to have flexibility for special events – such as bank holidays, bonfire night or events around Christmas
Following advice from council officers, Ms Furnival revised her application to reflect the desired operating hours. She was also advised she could seek temporary events notices to operate outside of these hours if needed.
The hours agreed by the panel were: 11am to 5pm Monday to Friday, but with the option to serve alcohol until 10pm on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays between April 1 and September 30.
The cafe can also serve alcohol until 10pm on Sundays, if it falls on a Bank Holiday weekend during this time.
Any changes to operating hours would also be subject to a planning application, as the cafe currently only has permission to open until 6pm (4pm on Sundays).
Neighbours maintained their objections despite these changes, however.
The panel also introduced several other additional conditions as part of the licence. These included a direction for all rubbish to be stored in secure containers or gull proof bags while awaiting collection.
Bin collections will also have to be conducted no earlier than 7am or later than 8pm.
The panel also added a condition requiring the cafe to keep its windows closed at all times and to move a hand dryer off of a wall shared with its immediate neighbour (both in an effort to reduce noise disturbance) .
Patrons will also not be permitted to take alcohol outside at any time.