Owners of a new coffee shop will not be able to sell alcohol for drinking on-site after part of their application was rejected by a Lambeth licensing sub-committee on Tuesday (May 11).  

Four Boroughs, which also runs a coffee shop in Crystal Palace, applied to sell alcohol in its new Loughborough Junction branch on and off-site from 7am to 6pm Saturday to Wednesday, and 7am to 7.30pm on Thursday and Friday.  

The new venue is in Coldharbour Works, formerly named Shakespeare Business Centre, off Coldharbour Lane.  

The courtyard in front of the cafe is surrounded by flats and offices, but some residents objected to the application over concerns about noise and increased street drinking.  

Though there were concerns with the cafe selling high strength craft beer and how customers would be served, the main issue of contention for people was potential noise from the courtyard.  

Licensing consultant Peter Fulton, representing Four Boroughs, said the business had wanted to mitigate the noise by not trading past 7pm.  

“The bottom line is quite simply if people misbehave, if they breach the licensing act, if they breach the conditions of our licence, if they have too much to drink, are disorderly […] we will ask them to leave, we will bar them from the premises,” he said.  

Coldharbour Works landlord Greg Cohen, who controls the courtyard, said up until the time of purchase the area was “derelict, used for storing vans, used for any activity anyone wanted”.  

“There are no planning restrictions on the courtyard at the moment, no restrictions on the number of people that can use the courtyard.  

“It’s an office block we have let to the NHS, so there are no restrictions on any member of the NHS staff going to Tesco round the corner, buying 24 cans of lager, sitting in the courtyard on chairs and hanging out with their friends for however long they want.  

“In light of that we have installed a very expensive, extensive CCTV system. We have an onsite manager who lives in the property – he has gone on staff training and will be going on more training to deal with any disturbances that the neighbours are concerned about. 

“We’re a responsible business – we've just spent £6 million refurbishing this estate that has been neglected for many years,” he said.  

Ten representations were received against the application,from the licensing authority and local residents. 

A council licensing officer said that should the application be granted it would “likely have a negative impact on the residents in the area”. 

Residents against the application spoke at the meeting.  

One said: “The increase in the numbers using the courtyard in addition to business tenants will create [...] an unbearable amount of noise seven days a week – not something I thought I’d be dealing with at my age.  

“The courtyard does echo and reverberate noise intensely.” 

Another said she and others were “not opposed” to Four Boroughs moving in. 

“Our objections are solely to the sale and consumption of alcohol in the courtyard. 

“We all know that congregated people drinking alcohol tend to get louder and louder as they drink – and this doesn’t happen when they drink coffee or kombucha. 

“We feel like today, even after all the documents and the conversation that we’ve had, the applicant has not given any indication on overall capacity levels and how they can police the patrons,” she said.  

The applicant agreed to cap the number of people in the courtyard at any one time to 30. 

But after deliberating for just under half an hour, committee chair Councillor Fred Cowell said the decision had been made to allow the business to sell alcohol, but not for consumption on site.  

“The committee are allowing the application, but we are removing the on sales element of the licence. We are allowing the application for off sales only.  

“The committee were aware of the very different nature of this application from previous applications on the site and of the precise submissions that have been made in relation to the nature of the business. 

“However, we were not satisfied that the applicant had demonstrated measures in place to sufficiently regulate the number of patrons at any one time that would be able to consume alcohol on the premises, sufficient to allay noise concerns coming from the residents.  

“We were inclined to agree that were this licence to be granted, there was the potential for [it] to cause noise nuisance [without] appropriate controls for the consumption of alcohol.  

“The condition relating to high strength alcohol is granted according to the applicant’s agreement in that eight beers are allowed beyond the six per cent threshold.”