BRADDA residents are ‘shocked’ at an application by the potential tenant of the newly refurbished Bradda Glen restaurant for a public house licence, potentially jeopardising its originally proposed Easter opening.
But the Department of Environment, Food and Agriculture (DEFA) said that for a business to be sustainable there all year round, it needed a ‘full on’ licence (equivalent to a public house licence), although a series of clauses will restrict elements such as opening hours.
Last Monday, February 14, a group of residents met with representatives from DEFA, Rushen MHKs and the prospective tenant to express their ‘outrage’ and attempt to reach compromise.
‘There was overwhelming local support and goodwill for the rejuvenation of the Bradda Glen Cafe, especially as DEFA made it clear in the planning application that it would be open from early morning to early evening, with no late opening permitted,’ said resident of the area, Lorna MacKellar.
‘The adjacent hall was designed as a multi-purpose space for educational displays, meetings, performances, etc. At this late stage we discovered in the Examiner a notice that an application is being made for a public house licence, with music and dancing to midnight seven nights a week. And it has been confirmed that the entire building, including the planned hall, is to be leased as a licensed restaurant. This will have a significant detrimental impact on the surrounding residents and the glen itself. There is considerable local outrage at the unannounced changes.’
Former agriculture minister Phil Gawne – also a Rushen MHK – who was at the meeting, said he was also surprised about the application.
He said: ‘When I was minister and pursuing the whole development at Bradda, I gave fairly strong assurances there would be no public housing licence. I was quite surprised, to say the least, the department is going for a public house licence – there have been concerns in the past with having a full licence there.’
At the meeting, the proposed tenant, Andy Hardy, managing director of The Courthouse in Douglas ‘was doing his best to calm nerves – people were very impressed’, said Mr Gawne. But he said residents were concerned about the potential for disruptive behaviour if a late-night public house licence were to be granted.
‘While the proposed tenant has no intention of causing problems if he has a full licence, that’s what potentially could happen,’ said Mr Gawne.
Mr Hardy said if he had just a restaurant licence he could not offer alcohol to customers, such as walkers wanting a light meal. Also, every time there was a wedding he would have to return to the licensing courts for a special licence, which is a time-consuming and costly exercise.
Mr Gawne suggested the restaurant operated for the first year under a restaurant licence and ‘if residents are comfortable with what’s going on he can then look for a more liberal offering’.
Mr Gawne criticised the department for its lack of communication. He said: ‘I was as shocked as the residents that commitment (for no drinking licence) seems to have been ignored by the new department. They have good reasons that should happen, but they have failed to get that message over. It is an essential component of the bid, residents would have been able to talk to the department and they would have been able to reach a compromise rather than leave it to go to the wire to reach an agreement.’
He added that nan Easter opening was ‘perhaps optimistic’.
He said residents want the business to work and they are very aware it faces challenges. He said: ‘There is a lot of concern along the lines of in the past attempts to keep it going failed, it is going to be difficult. It’s more isolated and the more tools the tenant has the better chance he has. People realise we could be defeating our own terms, making it perhaps more likely the operation could fail.’
Ken Kinrade, DEFA chief executive, admitted in outlining its vision for the future of Bradda Glen, the department was ‘perhaps a little naïve. We are not commercial, we have not run a restaurant, we know how quickly businesses come and go, in particular in hospitality.
‘We want something there for years and years and need something that will attract people to the south.’
He said when bidding to run the café/restaurant, ‘tenants have said the only way to make it sustainable, and we want it to be all year-round, is to have a licence. It’s not about creating a pub’.
He said the meeting allayed a lot of the residents’ concerns and that the department is drafting clauses in the lease this week and will hold another meeting with residents – perhaps on site – shortly.
‘When it all comes together this will be something special,’ he said. ‘I’m sure we can overcome the concerns of residents. We, as a department, do not want to be causing there to be late night music and revellers down there, what will be down there will be sustainable and a credit to the south.’
Meanwhile, Mr Hardy said: ‘I can totally understand the residents’ and commissioners’ fears regarding the licence. I, probably naively, was not aware of the location’s past history as a late bar/club and the issues that this caused to the people that lived by the glen, if my house backed onto that, I, too, would have had grave concerns when the license application appeared.
‘The reality is, though, that the business I am building is the polar opposite of this, and if I had been able to communicate this to the local authorities, people and commissioners then, hopefully, we would not have been in this position now. I am happy to say that after my meeting with the commissioners they have since informed me that they agreed to withdraw their objection.’
He added: ‘I honestly feel that for the business to have any chance of survival and longevity, it had to be a restaurant/cafe that would appeal to a broad market and offer a menu and experience that could live up to the stunning venue. The thought of meeting up for brunch or dining out and looking at the views across the bay to the Sound whilst eating stunning freshly produced, affordable local food was very appealing to me.’