Sports bar condemned as residents complain of ‘violent, drunken crowds’

Islington Town Hall. Photograph: Islington Council.

An Islington sports bar which has been accused by its neighbours of “threatening and nuisance” behaviour has been forced to only serve alcohol with food, as per the terms of its licence.

The Islington Sports Bar & Grill has been operating under the licence once held by Soho House’s trendy restaurant the Chicken Shop, which closed following a rodent infestation.

However, the Sports Bar was found to be trading well outside the terms of the Chicken Shop’s licence, at one point opening until 6am without a temporary events notice for the Fury v Wilder boxing match in December 2018.

Resident Daniel Slater accused the Sports Bar of “threatening and nuisance” behaviour, saying: “The premises in question is currently licensed as a restaurant, which was a good neighbour that caused no issues for us.

“Since the applicant took over the lease, they have been running a vertical drinking bar, selling alcohol without food in clear contravention of the premises’ restaurant licence.

“On one occasion when I went downstairs to ask management to turn the noise down, a security guard took me into a corner and threatened me.

“We’ve witnessed a number of alcohol-fuelled fights outside our home, during one of which the glass front of the premises downstairs was smashed.

“My female flatmate feels so intimidated by the violent, drunken crowds on the street that she plans her day so as to avoid them. The management have taken no action to prevent this, to my knowledge.”

Representatives of the Sports Bar at a recent licensing committee hearing attempted to persuade listening councillors that a change of management would allow the bar to successfully act as a well-managed football pub, following a number of shutdowns of venues frequented by Arsenal fans.

However, the Sports Bar will now be forced to comply with the terms of the original licence, after police and council officers remained unpersuaded that a management overhaul would solve the problems.

Licensing police constable Adam Peace said: “Over the past months, they’ve quite simply not been operating in accordance with their licence.

“I do appreciate the challenges that come with running a football pub, and the particular issues that – how can I tactfully put it – that demographic might present, but that’s not for us to second guess.

“They have to abide by the licensed conditions, and they haven’t been doing so.”

An Islington council licensing officer said: “There has been a complete disregard for the license conditions. We know there’s a shortage of pubs for football fans, but we would like to see it as a well-managed place. They’ve not demonstrated this.”

A solicitor acting for the Sports Bar said: “We acknowledge that the management has not been sound or sufficiently robust to make sure that neighbours are not bothered by noise.

“The owners, successful businessmen Mick Doherty and Alex Howard, are lifelong Arsenal fans and have seen over the last five or 10 years the closure of pretty much every single pub on the Holloway Road, from Archway all the way down.

“When the local authority say we want this to be a pub, we just want a different company to run it, perhaps they know something we don’t, and that there is a company or individual that on the eve of Brexit that would put in substantial amounts of investment into this pub and provide the critical amenity for the football community that has been so poorly served by these closures.”