It is always a problem when neighbours don’t get on, and when your neighbours are a pub or a nightclub it can be especially problematic.
I am, as you may have gathered, a fan of pubs. I also like live music and I have been known to enjoy the odd late night drinking session. If we are serious about encouraging a burgeoning night-time economy in Gloucester we need more of this.
If you live in a house nearby to one of these late night venues you may think otherwise, however, as recent stories in the local media demonstrate. This is the perhaps inevitable conflict caused by residential properties being developed in the same area as the night-time economy.
The most well publicised instance of this clash of neighbours is with the newly opened Wetherspoons pub in the Docks; the Lord High Constable.
The Docks is a great boon to Gloucester as a tourist destination, but it also has a lot of flats and apartments. In the past residents have complained about a variety of things happening outside their front doors and I have had little sympathy: if you choose to live in a tourist attraction then you have to put up with occasional disruption and inconvenience.
However, despite my love of pubs, in the case of the Lord High Constable I have a lot more sympathy.
The deal with the Docks was always that everything finished by midnight. With the Lord High Constable that contract has been broken: somehow Wetherspoons have managed to get permission to open until 1:30am.
The clientèle at a Wetherspoons is very different to that of the other venues at the Docks. With people lured by the attraction of cheap drink, the atmosphere inside the vast pub is very different to that of other bars and restaurants in the area. And when these people are kicked out in the early hours, they are apparently far more rowdy.
I have nothing against Wetherspoons, and if this was in the middle of town I wouldn’t have a problem with any of this. Indeed, there are already two Wetherspoons in the centre and they do a fine job. But this isn’t the centre of town; the Docks is supposed to be offering a different proposition.
Matters are only made worse by the revelation that Wetherspoons are not only exempt from the licensing hours imposed on other venues, they are also somehow exempt from paying the service charge that everyone else has to pay. I think I would be pretty annoyed about that too.
I made no secret of the fact that I was rooting for Gloucester Brewery to win the battle for the old Coots building and now, when I look at it, I can picture the brewery still in its original place with a larger version of TANK next door with the courtyard still intact between them. What a vastly superior proposition that would have been for the area. I suspect the residents would agree.
The second clash involves the licensing application for the former Jumpin’ Jaks in Brunswick Road. Here I have less sympathy with the residents.
Jumpin’ Jaks is just around the corner from the Eastgate Strip. This area is crying out for something new to break the monotony of the 18-24 club scene. The bar/ entertainment venue planned for the premises could have been just what was needed: a high-end pub catering for a more mature clientele, plus plans for events such as comedy shows, plays and films.
They wanted to stay open until 2:30am, making it a viable alternative to the nightclubs just around the corner, but the licensing committee said no: they could only stay open until midnight.
The reason? Objections by residents in the newly built properties nearby.
The people who bought these properties knew that they were moving into the city centre. If they weren’t aware that there was a street of nightclubs just around the corner they really hadn’t done their homework; and if they weren’t advised that there had been a long-standing desire to bring the nearby nightclub back into use then someone wasn’t doing their job properly.
There are all too frequent stories in the media about people moving next door to popular and well-known music venues and getting them closed down; or people moving into the countryside and complaining about the smell of the animals. This is on a par and it is crazy.
Although I support bringing the city centre back into more residential use, the much-needed development of Gloucester’s nightlife can’t be held hostage by demands of residents: they need to be told what they are letting themselves in for and then embrace it – or at least put up with it.