Coffee shop gets go-ahead to sell wine despite neighbours’ concerns

Islington Town Hall. Photograph: Islington Citizen

People escaping the daily grind will be able to buy a bottle of wine at a new coffee shop in Islington’s popular Upper Street.

Simon Peace from High Ground said the coffee shop would not be a venue for people who wanted to drink heavily, but would give them a chance to enjoy a quiet glass of wine and buy a bottle to take away.

The cafe will offer pastries, cakes and sandwiches, with wine for sale only taking up 15 per cent of the small space. It can seat just 35 over two storeys, with the potential to seat six more outside.

Stewart Gibson, acting for High Ground, told Islington’s licensing committee: “Quality over quantity will be the message.”

Peace already runs a similar coffee shop in Ealing with his wife in a similar impact zone to Upper Street.

He explained: “We like to set up businesses that we like. The wine is an interest of  ours. It helps people to familiarise with the wine if they can sit in. I don’t like rowdy venues.”

He applied to sell alcohol for off sales from 8am to 10pm for customers to enjoy in the cafe.

Upper Street is in a cumulative impact zone as there are many bars and restaurants serving alcohol.

Objectors wrote in to explain they were concerned about noise.

One household told the council  that although they installed double glazing, “other venues are already causing us and other neighbours many problems, with music, food and alcohol being served until late”.

They said their school age daughter’s “sleep is already severely impacted every week , from Thursdays to Sundays included”.

The letter went on to say the family was concerned about the possibility of their daughter witnessing “drunkenness or threatening behaviours”.

Gibson said that as bottles of wine would mainly cost between £15 and £25, with nothing less than £10, “if you are of the ilk who wants to come along and see how much alcohol you can pour down your throat, it would be an expensive business”.

He added: “There are other places down the road.”

Peace said: “Rent is quite high on Upper Street – income from wine would be a welcome addition.”

He went on: “It’s for people who want to go out for a drink in the evening to somewhere that’s nice and quiet.”

Cllr Ben Mackmurdie  (Lab, Clerkenwell) asked whether people really buy alcohol at 8am.

Peace said: “We set it at 11am at Ealing, and what we found was people came in for a coffee on their way to work and wanted to grab something for the evening. We had to say not until 11am and they rarely came back.”

Cllr Angelo Weekes wanted to know how staff would prevent vertical drinking.

Peace explained the licence would only allow people to drink alcohol whilst seated: “Nobody can be served wine standing up, it will make it too crowded. We would say we are full and as part of our licence we can’t serve you standing up.

“We wouldn’t want that kind of atmosphere, that’s not what we want to create. We would say you can’t stand and drink.”

The licensing sub-committee approved the application (3 August).