Compton Arms boss ‘very happy’ as pub keeps hold of licence following complaints from neighbours

Compton Arms, Islington, London

The Compton Arms. Photograph: Vicki Couchman

The boss of one of George Orwell’s favourite pubs said he was “very happy” after a Town Hall review saw it retain its licence.

Instead, council bosses imposed new licensing conditions on the Compton Arms.

Four residents living near the pub asked for the review after a series of complaints about noise and drinkers gathering on the pavement outside.

They said some people sit on steps outside private homes and were unwilling to move, and they also complained of someone urinating in the street.

There was also a concern over “a significant number” of people outside the pub on the day of the first Arsenal home match after lockdown in September 2021.

The centuries-old pub is said to be one of three in Canonbury that writer George Orwell used as a model for his fictional “perfect pub” Moon Under Water in a 1940s newspaper article.

The residents, who have lived near the pub for more than 20 years, said problems had arisen since 2019 and were adamant they did not want the pub to close.

Islington GP Dr Hannah Flinders said: “We are residents who wish for peace in our homes. ”

She said some residents did not want to come to the Town Hall hearing because of the attention the case has attracted.

The council chamber was packed with supporters of the pub, alongside residents with concerns.

Flinders told the licensing committee:  “Eric Blair (George Orwell) wouldn’t recognise it if it was his local pub. He, like us would, complain.”

She said: “We understand it can’t be the same. There is a balance between the Compton Arms of yesterday and Studio 54 as it has been described recently.

“We don’t want the pub to close, we love it, but we just want to live without fear, with no people urinating and people shouting at tops of their voices, with street drinking. It’s getting worse and it’s getting dangerous.”

Another neighbour, Guy Walker, said: “Talking about George Orwell is good for PR.”

He added: “It is noisier than it should be.”

He suggested keeping doors closed and fitting air conditioning as well as limiting the number of people outside.

Pub boss Nick Stephens (left). Photograph: Julia Gregory

Nick Stephens, who runs the pub, said: “We keep it very regulated.”

He told the licencing hearing that it was crucial to have good relationships with neighbours and his team worked hard to run a good pub.

He said the incident where someone urinated came after they were asked to leave the pub and police had been called.

He added: “We have in the past said we’ve had too many people drinking outside and moved them on.”

Islington’s noise team investigated complaints and said the noise did not breach rules.

They said they were not aware of it being a problem pub.

Time Out London‘s editor Joe Mackertich said: “This place is run exceptionally well. Nick doesn’t employ just anyone, he only employs people who are absolutely fantastic at what they do.”

Time Out recently named the pub as the “second best” in the UK and more than 1,700 people, including supporters from abroad, contacted the council.

Mackertich said: “I’ve never seen noise, I’ve never seen chaos.”

Sophie Swift was another resident speaking in support.

She explained that she has young children and “it’s not in my interest to have anti-social behaviour”.

“I’ve never encountered any problems, I’m  happy to have it as my local.”

Another customer, Nick Matthias, praised the staff as “very courteous” and said the pub is “always very welcoming”.

The Compton Arm’s lawyer Andrew Woods said the character of the pub had not changed.

He said: “We disagree that it has caused noise and noise pollution to residents.”

Woods said “considerably more people turned up than expected” after the first post-lockdown Arsenal game and the pub took action and agreed to more management outside.

Islington’s licensing committee added new conditions and said there should be a noise management and dispersal policy.

The garden has to be closed by 10.30pm and drinking outside is banned after 10pm.

There can only be a maximum of 20 people drinking in the street, apart from on Arsenal match days, and no-one is allowed to congregate on the opposite side of Compton Avenue or on Hydes Place.

Afterwards, Stephens said he was “very, very happy” with the outcome.