I got back from my holiday in June to find that two of the bars had closed down and were boarded up. The Ranch and Dragon’s Kiss have gone, joining BSB which went under about six months or so ago. ‘The Strip’ has gone very quiet. There are still plenty of eateries and drinkeries in that area, but the three that have gone were easily the largest in terms of floorplan. All three have seemed to me to be in decline for some time – they were all scrabbling for the same set of clientele and one which will have seen a drop in income due to the recession.
I don’t rejoice to see any business go bust, but ‘The Strip’ is a major local source of nuisance and anti-social behaviour for local residents. At least one of the closures had an element of Police involvement due to what was going on inside and all three fuelled high levels of alcohol consumption in a ‘vertical environment’ (people drink more standing up!) that had a knock on for vandalism, violence and noise.
‘The Strip’ was partly a product of the lax licensing laws that were introduced in 2005 and which handed power to alcohol sellers and removed much of their responsibility, while making it harder for local residents and councillors to say “wait - this is the wrong place!” And ‘The Strip’ is the wrong place for a late night drinking quarter, with people living just yards away and cheek by jowl with busy clubs and bars. The government is currently in the process of unpicking much of the 2003 Licensing Act and handing back powers to communities that the last government took away. So, these departures may have a silver lining in that as and when new operators come along, there will be an opportunity to restrict their operations to limit their negative impact on the local community.
In other Whiteladies Road news:
- Derbyshires newsagent, which has been there for forty years or so, has closed down with the owners retiring. It is being replaced by a franchise of Costa Coffee and the conversion work is going on at the moment. It’s no secret that I am unhappy to see a shop lost to another coffee shop (with which the area is well endowed!), but there is no means by which the Council can prevent this under planning law – I have fought to ensure that the ‘A1’ use will be maintained so that it can revert back to a shop in the future. I’ve met the franchisee, who lives locally and runs the Costa in Henleaze, and we’ve had a positive conversation about working together towards a vibrant shopping area.
- Planning permission for the old ABC cinema to be converted into flats was refused for the second time. The building has been empty for about ten years after it was closed with a covenant on it to prevent it reopening as a cinema. Various uses have been proposed over the years, including as a gym and a nightclub, but they’ve not got off the ground – thankfully in some cases. It even has permission to be a church! I am supporting plans to see it converted to a multi-use arts centre, which would be great; I had a fascinating guided tour of the building from the person leading this new initiative last week. One way to achieve this might be to have a small number of flats as part of the scheme to raise the capital for the rest.
- The Clifton Mini Mart on Cotham Hill has applied a second time for a late night alcohol sales licence. This was refused about six months back, with them being granted a 10pm licence to fit in with Corks and Sainsburys – the other two local off licences. I am working with local residents to see this application rejected again.
- I'm meeting with the fledgling traders association on Cotham Hill at the end of the month to talk about ways in which we can work together to protect and promote the area as an independent-led shopping street, serving the local community. I'll report back in due course.