Rye cafe seeking changes to its premises licence

A Rye cafe’s bid to amend its alcohol licence is being mulled over by Rother councillors. 

Thursday, 25th March 2021, 1:38 pm

On Thursday (March 25), a Rother District Council licensing panel heard an application seeking a new premises licence for The Fig, a cafe in Rye High Street. 

The cafe was first granted an alcohol licence in May 2019, but it included some significant restrictions in light of concerns around noise disturbance from neighbours. 

The new application sought to remove some of these restrictions, including longer serving hours and the ability to open its windows after 8pm. 

Since that previous application, the cafe has also been granted planning permission for extended opening hours, a point stressed by John Wallsgrove, a lawyer acting for the applicant. 

Mr Wallsgrove said: “This licensing committee – and please don’t take this as teaching grandma to suck eggs, I am saying this for the benefit of the residents who may not be aware of how your decision works – has to consider what the impact of the licensable activity is on the licensing objectives. 

“You are not here to consider any nuisance that would arise from a cafe operating, which has nothing to do with the sale of alcohol.”

He added: “In that regard, it is my view that the eight interested parties who have made representations are trying to have a second bite of the cherry in regard to the planning permission which extended the hours we are now applying for. 

“It is wrong that this committee be drawn in to consider matters which the planning committee has already considered, already taken into account objections and granted that permission.”

The largest changes to the previous licence would be new serving hours, with the cafe seeking to sell alcohol from 10am to 9.45pm, seven days a week. Currently the cafe can serve alcohol from 11am to 5pm for half of the year and from 11am to 10pm for the other six months.

The full changes also included the removal of a condition requiring The Fig to keep its doors and windows closed after 8pm. This had originally not been time limited, but was altered on appeal.  

Mr Wallsgrove said The Fig had operated under these arrangements through temporary event notices last year. He said no noise complaints had been made during these periods, showing it could operate this way without disturbance.

In fact the council’s environmental health team reported that it had only received one complaint (in December 2019) relating to noise from the premises.

Council papers show this was made by a local resident about early morning deliveries by a small refrigerated van, but no evidence was found to substantiate the complaint and the matter was resolved informally.

Residents denied this however, arguing that they had made numerous complaints to the council about disturbance from the cafe. 

Residents also said the issues around other disturbances should not be dismissed as planning matters alone, arguing that the supply of alcohol would increase footfall and exacerbate these issues.  

Mark Taylor, one of the residents objecting to the application, said: “We understand planning has been granted and we understand there is a licence and we understand therefore operation can continue irrespective of our observations, subject to operating within that licence.

“We have suffered. Waste is one of the issues we’ve discussed previously. We have had raw sewage in our garden and I believe Southern Water have actually written to threaten them with enforcement unless a grease trap is put in. 

“Even though you might argue that is not a licensing matter it is exacerbated by more custom and more operation hours fulfilling greater need for the waste.

“It is clear to me that the property is not fit for purpose as a restaurant and from that perspective I would ask that you decline this licence and if you decide to continue to apply the same level of conditionality as you did last time.”

After hearing from all interested parties, the panel retired to consider its findings. A formal decision is expected to be published sometime within the next five working days.