A village pub just outside Bristol has had restrictions on the use of its beer garden partly loosened despite opposition from residents who feared their lives would become “a living hell”.
The live-in landlady at the George & Dragon pub in Winterbourne – who locals call “the Iron Lady” – has had to clear the garden of customers by 10pm every night for the past decade.
The restriction was put in place before she took over, when the pub on Winterbourne Hill had its 2am weekend licence revoked in 2009.
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Police called for the late opening hours to be scrapped 12 years ago after increasing trouble from large groups of drinkers outside the pub shouting obscenities, slamming car doors and urinating in the early hours of the morning.
But landlady Georgina Harris, who took over ten years ago, told a licensing hearing that she wanted the same hours as a “normal” pub because she had to battle with customers to get them inside at 10pm, and had lost some of them because of it.
“It’s not like any other pub and I don’t think it’s fair,” she said. “I understand there were issues before but for ten years there hasn’t been issues. I can’t change the past but I’ve done a good job.”
Mrs Harris applied to use the beer garden until 11pm, and to be able to have bands and play recorded music outside until that time on Mondays to Thursdays, until 12.30am on Fridays and Saturdays and until 10.30pm on Sundays.
She also applied to be able to sell alcohol for takeaway until 11pm, the same time as currently allowed under temporary Covid-related legislation.
But 27 residents objected to the application, which was in the name of the licence-holder, former landlord Steve Fionda.
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Six people wrote letters in support, saying the pub was well run, had a family atmosphere, and had helped the community through difficult times, a South Gloucestershire licensing sub-committee heard on August 17.
Neighbours who objected to the application worried the noise from the garden, especially amplified music, would keep them and their children awake at night, and disturb home and shift workers during the day.
They also thought that granting the licence would mean extra smashed bottles and plastic litter from alcohol off-sales and extra cars, which would worsen an already “horrendous” parking situation.
They also feared it would mean a return to the “crime and disorder” in the months before the pub had its weekend 2am licence rescinded.
The meeting heard that the pub, which can take about 200 people in the garden and up to 100 inside, was in a quiet residential area with young families and elderly residents.
In the past year, the council has received one complaint about noise from the pub garden but an inspection found the pub was fully compliant with all licensing regulations.
Louise Mowbray, who has lived on Dragon Road beside the pub for 20 years, spoke on behalf of a number of residents who were bitterly opposed to the application.
The George & Dragon pub in Winterbourne Hill, Winterbourne, South Gloucestershire
(Image: Google Streetview)
Ms Mowbray, who has also worked as a police licensing officer, said: “The application, if granted, would only again result in crime and disorder and public nuisance.
“During the [2009 licence] review it was deemed necessary to restrict the use of the pub garden to prevent public nuisance and this application seeks to go against that.
“The provision of live music will turn the lives of residents into a living hell.
“The use of the external area for live music daily will turn this village into a no-go zone for the residents. It effectively licences a nightclub, an external nightclub, in a village setting.
“The residents I have been talking to have been talking about moving away if this goes through.”
Louise Mowbray spoke at the licensing hearing
(Image: South Gloucestershire Council webcast)
But other residents, who also objected to the application, acknowledged that Mrs Harris was a “strong” landlady who kept noise to “reasonable” levels under the current licence.
Peter Crossman, whose bedroom overlooks the pub carpark, said: “There are people who love the pub. They run a great pub.”
Mrs Harris, who was born in Winterbourne, said she found the application confusing and mostly just wanted to be able to use the pub garden past 10pm.
“When you have got to try and tell people when it’s a lovely sunny evening ‘you need to be inside now’, it’s a massive argument,” she said. “I do lose customers.
“I want my garden like a normal pub’s garden. It’s not so much about the music. If you said the music had to stop at 11 o’clock I’d be happy with that.”
She said she would only want live bands in the garden “once a month, in the summer, if that”. The recorded music in the garden would come from small, quiet speakers in the smoking shelter fed by a juke box with a noise limit, she said.
Mr Fionda testified that Mrs Harris always stuck to the rules and barred locals who broke them.
“She’s known in Winterbourne as the Iron Lady,” he said. “She won’t stand for nothing. She don’t have no rubbish in there. She’s rowing all the time with them.
“Everything you tell her to do, she will do.”
The licensing sub-committee gave permission for the pub to play recorded music outdoors from 11am to 11pm, seven days a week, but withheld consent for live music in the garden, saying it would be a “source of public nuisance”.
The pub garden must be cleared of all drinks and glasses by 11pm. Alcohol off-sales are permitted until 11pm.
The committee said a noise limiter must be installed to control the volume of music outside. The pub must also follow a set of conditions agreed with police before the meeting.
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