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COURTYARD CLOSURE: Yarm wine bar owner ‘devastated’

COURTYARD CLOSURE: Yarm wine bar owner ‘devastated’

Image: LDRS

A WINE bar owner says she is “devastated” after efforts to open up a renovated courtyard were scuppered.

Fourteen Drops, on Yarm High Street, had a successful first weekend opening earlier this month with the help of outdoor space at its rear.

But, after back and forth with Stockton Council, its owners have revealed it now cannot use its courtyard due to planning rules.

The wine vendor had used a “Temporary Events Notice” (TEN) to open up the  back courtyard after clearing up several bags of muck from the stretch.

However, timings to apply for another TEN meant the bar was forced to close off the courtyard over the recent weekend.

And getting permission for its use will require more costly amendments to planning permission and licences.

In a Facebook post, the bar said it was sorry for the customers affected by the courtyard closure.

It added: “It is safe to say we are truly devastated, but rest assured this isn’t the end of the fight and we will continue to work tirelessly to get this project off the ground.

“We will still be open at the front as normal with all the best wines, meats and cheeses (take outs too) and we really do appreciate all the support we have had to try and open this outside space.

“After the devastating effects of last year, all we want to do is be able to open safely outside and welcome you back in a beautiful setting and we hope to be able to increase this soon.”

“Lost for words”

The upmarket wine and charcuterie bar opened in 2017 on the site of the former Elliott’s coffee shop.

Eight seats are available at the front of the shop at the moment.

Owner Fiona McLain told the Local Democracy Reporting Service how £100 was paid for a pavement licence last year so the front seats could be used.

Further efforts to clear the rear courtyard were paid for by the bar – with “eight bags of slime” removed from drains.

But problems then cropped up over a loss of parking spaces on the stretch,

Ms McLain wanted to see the council show more flexibility when it came to using outdoor space given Government guidelines had relaxed some rules for the hospitality sector.

“Customers want to come and we want to welcome customers,” she said.

“We had the council come out on a Saturday, our busiest day, last week when we used the space.

“There were three officers and they all said they were really happy with how it was run, and they didn’t need to do a sound level test because it was extremely respectable.

“We didn’t use all of it – and then to have all of this makes me a bit lost for words.”

Costly variations

The 33-year-old shared frustration over how the bar could only operate on eight seats – and believed the council should have “thought ahead” to accommodate parking spaces and the courtyard’s use for customers.

Ms McLain said: “They’re saying they’re trying to accommodate people who live nearby, which is all well and good.

“But if people are in a High Street, they’ve got to expect a little bit of something – particularly during a pandemic.

“They’ve said I will have to put in a full variation on my licence which would cost just short of £1,000.

“I understand the reasons for that.

“But at this time of year, having to spend £1,000, and not knowing whether that will be granted when they’re also not giving any other options for outdoor space, is the crux of it all.”

The family-owned bar has kept going through lockdown through off licence sales.

Ms McLain got a full time job with a wine importer to supplement lost income and help staff during covid – and thanked the “incredible” messages of support it had received from customers and residents alike.

Rules are set to change on May 17 to allow customers to be served indoors as part of the lockdown roadmap.

But the owner explained some people would still be unhappy to sit inside – adding that other councils had helped shops and businesses by supplying tables and chairs, or even closing roads.

Ms McLain said: “We only used half, or even just a third, of the courtyard space because we didn’t want it to be too big.

“We had people asking if they could move tables into spaces and we said no – we turned down customers.

“We’re not trying to do a full pub beer garden.

“We can have two tables of six and two twos and that’s a really nice number for us to manage.”

“Correct permissions” needed

The bar owner said going to just eight seats made a “significant difference” to staffing – adding it had been “devastating” to phone customers who’d booked spots when the courtyard was originally available.

In response, a spokesman for Stockton Council said the licensee had “received extensive and significant support” recently to help it operate “appropriately and within legislation”.

He added: “A pavement licence for the front of the premises has been previously granted but, as advised, if they wish to serve customers outside on their rear terrace then they must make sure they have the correct permissions to do so.

“A Temporary Event Notice was used by the licensee to open the rear terrace area last week (April 17,18).

“But we have advised them that there are planning conditions regarding that space, so an application must be submitted so any permanent changes can be considered in the proper manner by the planning committee.

“We have advised that they can apply for another TEN in the meantime while they consider if they wish to submit a full application for a change in the restrictions on using the outside rear terrace to be looked at.”

Words: Alex Metcalfe, Local Democracy Reporter


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