This morning I attended a licensing hearing as an objector to McDonald’s application to extend their hours. Their Western Road, Brighton branch wanted to open from 5am Friday morning until midnight Sunday non-stop. They also wanted to close an hour later the rest of the week at midnight. Currently they only operate until midnight on Friday and Saturday nights.
When I discussed this application with residents they were very concerned. They argued that there would be increased late night nuisance and disorder caused by the longer hours. It’s a sad reflection on the licensing system that they were unaware of the application until I let them know, and of the few that said they’d object only one was received by officers – but a few days past the deadline for receiving objections so it couldn’t even be considered. So it was just the Police and I as objectors — despite our knowing many residents felt strongly about it. The licensing regime has to be made more accessible for residents.
I won’t rehearse all the arguments made at the panel, as it went on for a good 3 hours at least!
A few notes of interest though: As is often the case, the use of a barrister, can be counterproductive. Too often I’ve found that barristers use approaches which might work in a court-room but end up only turning licensing hearings against them. McDonald’s barrister did the same today — though I might add we had a very interesting discussion about councillor code of conduct tribunals as he had read of my experiences with them!
The owner-operator for Brighton McDonalds mentioned at the hearing that his night-time trade had grown 40% in the last 2 years. He also claimed that last year he served 540,000 people at his Western Road branch and 750,000 at his Marina branch. He made great play of the public sector shift workers such as police officers and nurses who use his Marina branch at all hours.
That may well be… but he failed to address the fact that, unlike the Marina, his Western Road branch is in the city’s cumulative impact area. It’s clear to me, as it was to the police, that people otherwise walking home after a long night would be likely to stop if was a McDonalds open there. We know that drunk people emerging from clubs are noisy and if they are queuing, eating or just hanging around with friends they are going to produce that noise in an area bounded by residential streets. We also know that queues for late night food are often a flashpoint for fights. Yet McDonalds had not even suggested having a single member of security staff to proactively manage any problems, just CCTV and a mobile support unit to call if trouble flared up – reactive, not preventative measures.
Thankfully the panel agreed with the Police and I, so the application was refused in its entirety. I think it’s highly likely McDonalds will appeal or submit a revised application.