A DERELICT church will soon be filled with revellers drinking until 2am despite fears of shouting, vomiting and booze-fuelled bar brawls creating a “nightmarish” living situation for city residents.
Outraged residents living in the heart of Chester are calling for a halt in the influx of late night licences after another venue was granted permission to stay open into the early hours of the morning.
Last Tuesday, members of Cheshire West and Chester Council’s licensing sub-committee gave the green light to plans to reopen the disused St Andrew’s United Reform Church on Newgate Street as a “high class” bar and restaurant.
The approved licence will see the church serve revellers alcohol until 1am on Sundays-Thursdays and 10am-2am Friday-Saturday, before closing half an hour later.
Approval came despite fears that another late night establishment in the city would cause an increase in anti-social behaviour, with residents being kept awake all night as drunken revellers stumble home, fight, scream and sing close to the new bar.
But pub and restaurant owner Simon Rodenhurst, who is working in conjunction with the Grosvenor Shopping Centre on the church restaurant, welcomed the news and reassured residents that the church would not be turned into a nightclub or live music venue and the customers would be ‘high class’.
Speaking during the meeting, city centre Cllr Sam Dixon said that many of the residents had lived in the city years before the clubs and bars opened and it was not “unreasonable” to expect a good night’s sleep.
“Many have lived in the city centre for a long time beside long established bars and night clubs, many of whom trade successfully, respect the residents and also appreciate Chester’s unique and special character,” said Cllr Dixon who welcomed the regeneration of the church but objected to the lateness of the licence.
“However, the scales are being tipped against the residents. They now feel the commercial ambitions of the licensed trade and the increased fall-out from that trade in terms of noise, nuisance and anti-social behaviour in the middle of the night, now outweighs their quality of life.
“The nuisance we are talking about is early hours of the mornings at weekends dominated by shouting, yelling and screeching. The anti-social behaviour is increasing incidents of public urination, defecation and acts of public outrage.”
Cllr Dixon said the borough had a ‘drinking problem’ with alcohol related criminality and vandalism ruining the nature and character of the city, and called for an end to late night licences.
If approved the plans would see the original features of the church restored, while a new mezzanine would be created for diners to enjoy food and old office blocks lining the courtyard would be demolished to create an external terrace.
Speaking for Mr Rodenhurst – currently the director of Wise Trace Holdings which runs the Plough Inn at the Roe in St Asaph – agent Peter Catherall reassured residents living near the church that it would not be turned into a nightclub or live music venue and the customers would be “high class”.
“My client has been aware of this building for sometime and feels that the time is now right for the building to be renovated,” said Mr Catherall.
“There will not be anyone out on the terrace after midnight so noise shouldn’t be an issue. This is definitely not going to be a club or a chain restaurant and there will not be any loud music coming from the establishment.
“This is very much a high class restaurant and bar which will be run by a respected and responsible operator.”