Locals voice concern over uni’s application for new drinking venue in City

Locals voice concern over uni's application for new drinking venue in City
credit Unsplash

More than 900 partygoers could drink in a “residential” area until the early hours of the morning if an alcohol license gets approved.

The City of London’s licencing committee has been recommended to green-light the University of Chicago Booth of Business’s application on Bartholomew Close.

The committee was due to discuss the application on January 4, but adjourned the meeting until January 20 after the applicant confirmed they could not attend due to train strikes.

The university runs MBA programmes from its Rothman Campus near St Barts hospital and is an off-shoot of the original business school in Chicago, USA.

The London campus applied for a licence to sell alcohol and provide live entertainment on-site on November 7, but had its proposals rebuffed by some City officials who were concerned about noise pollution and antisocial behaviour. Chicago Booth Business school resubmitted an application with amendments.

City of London Police shared concerns about an uptick in drunken revellers and crime and disorder levels in the area if the application was approved.

The force said: “We consider that as a university campus building for a student number of 120, the applicant sets out that the capacity of the hospitality areas which could number upwards of 900 people… and the potential effect on crime and disorder, as well as anti-social behaviour in the area could be very impactive.”

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It said the London campus had “no information on the experience… of operating such a large venue, which will apparently allow use by outside parties bringing bookings for potentially large numbers”.

It suggested the university install 24-hour CCTV cameras and ditch plans to promote live music events to the general public.

A City of London environment health officer said having more party-goers around could see “patrons leaving and smoking… [and] could cause public nuisance to nearby residents”.

They said that extending the campus’ opening hours to 3am could “extend the impact of noise into the nighttime hours” and called University officials to provide a detailed dispersal plan.

According to council documents, the Chicago Booth of Business planned to deck out three floors of its central London campus to host 940 people. It typically accommodates just 120 students.

The US university has agreed to hire security guards and reduce the time it could sell alcohol to 12.30am.

Nearby residents have blasted the move, calling it “absurd” and with many having “serious concerns” about rowdiness.

Kahroba Kojouri is one of 73 people to object to the proposal, saying that allowing the campus to sell alcoholic drinks late at night and host entertainment “would very likely cause serious harm to local residents, including in particular residents of the Barts Square development.”

Kojouri, who lives opposite the campus, added: “We would expect this to result in unsociable behaviour and drinking in public places (including in the square right in front of the location, which is in the very middle of a residential area), which would disturb the peace and quiet of the area and may also make the area less safe”.

Jonathan Hale said he could see “no grounds when any part of it should be granted”.

He said: “Bartholomew Close is a quiet residential area. Because of the nature of the area, sound reverberates around the area very audibly, particularly at night when things are very quiet. To allow student drinking, eating and entertainment to 3am Monday to Sunday is ridiculous, even more so since the application is on and off premises.”

Kazmer Nagy-Betegh said permitting the sale of alcohol past 9pm “would significantly increase the social activity around the development and noise because of that.”

“The reason for the objection is that having studied at a business school before, I have experienced, how business school students and parties are, and they get usually very loud.

“Sound gets trapped between the buildings and gets very quickly amplified… Having people coming from a party, pass through the Middlesex passage, which notoriously traps noise and echoes, would significantly impact residents in Hogarth House, Abernethy House and Dominion Building. Other routes impact the Levett building and more… The combination of these buildings would affect a high number of the residents in the area.”

Another resident, who goes by the name Veran, said it would be “a hit on local pubs, bars and cafes who are struggling to recover from COVID and lack of footfall”.

They said: “One of the reasons why this office block and business school was approved in the first place was the positive benefit it would have on local hospitality businesses. Several hundred students per day, seven days a week is a lot of potential business for local eating establishments.”

A University spokesperson said: “This application is for the grant of a premises licence to allow the sale of alcohol, regulated entertainment and late-night refreshments for the benefit of students and staff, but also to enable conferences and public events.

“Licensable activities shall occur at each floor, with regulated entertainment focused on the Grand hall (capacity 300), 1st-floor lounge (capacity 350), the Collaboration Forum (capacity 140) and the second-floor lounge (capacity 150).

“The Chicago Booth School of Business greatly values the community in which it resides and is maintaining an open dialogue with local residents regarding its license application. The City of London will be reviewing our application later this month. We hope that we can reach a conclusion that is mutually acceptable for all.”

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