Cookery school led by refugees and migrants wins licence to offer alcohol during lessons

Migrateful runs more than 1,000 classes across London. Photograph: Federico Rivas

A charity that runs cookery classes led by refugees, asylum seekers and migrants has been given a licence to offer alcohol during lessons.

Migrateful was started four years ago and runs more than 1,000 classes in cafes across London.

It is ploughing profits from online classes held last year into its new base at the council-owned Peel Institute in Clerkenwell.

The social enterprise had asked for a licence to sell alcohol from midday to 9.30pm for up to 24 events a year.

It expected up to host 30 people at classes and a maximum of 60 at events.

It also wanted permission to play recorded music from 12pm to 9.30pm for classes and until 11pm at the events.

Several residents were concerned about the impact of noise.

Noah Walton, the charity’s head of operations and finance, told the licensing committee: “We’re not just an educational charity, we’re also a social enterprise.

“We work to help people who’ve got very traumatic backgrounds integrate  into society, get into work and avoid poverty, and also change hearts and minds and attitudes towards refugees.”

He said there were 24 cooking stations and in reality classes might have 14 students.

Walton explained the “ambient” music was likely to be from the tutor’s home country and would be played at a low volume so they could talk over it.

The charity had scaled back the hours it had asked for initially after talking to residents about their concerns.

Resident Julian Malins said: “The consumption of alcohol is absolutely incompatible for studying or learning.”

He also questioned why music was needed at a cookery school.

He said:  “My objection is noise – 30 customers plus staff leaving under the influence of alcohol will be noisy.”

The centre is close to flats in an “otherwise quiet neighbourhood” and he was concerned about the noise of 60 people leaving after having drinks at events late in the evening.

Nicholas Jones, who runs a recording studio in Kingsway Place, said he was “reassured it would be well run” after meeting Migrateful staff but was worried about disturbance from music.

He pointed out that it would be impossible to keep to a condition to keep windows shut and said he was concerned about bass levels of music.

Conditions include keeping the windows shut if there is entertainment. The charity has also drawn up a noise management plan.

Jones said he was supportive of the charity’s aim and thought it would enhance the community: “It’s a wonderful place to be. It’s a village in central London. The fact that it’s a village also means it’s pretty quiet.”

He said sound can carry and bounces off walls.

“Constant noise is a health hazard and we want to be sure that it won’t become a problem,” he added.

Walton said: “This is like someone playing music at the same level you’d have in your living room with guests over with a glass of beer and you want to talk to them.”

He said there would be a locked fridge at the school so people could have a gin and tonic or glass of wine at the class. The last orders would be 8.30pm as classes run from 6.30pm to 9pm.

Walton explained that the sale of alcohol would help make the school financially sustainable.

Islington Council’s licensing sub-commitee approved the licence.