We’re sorry to be the bearers of bad news but we have heard that the licence for much-loved independent local North Kensington pub Ariadne’s Nectar Bar has been revoked.
Last Thursday, the RBKC Licensing Sub- Committee met for a review over the future of the pub. The Committee consisted of Cllr Dori Schmetterling (Chair), Cllr Malcolm Spalding and Cllr Tom Bennett.
This review had heen called by Winston Labarr, a senior Environmental Health officer from the Noise and Nuisance team and was supported by Fiona Johnson, a Licensing Officer and Ashleigh Wilson, a Planning Officer. The Committee did not make the decison there and then, but yesterday we received the bad news.
Back in 2018, the Licensing Committee had a previous review (called by former councillor Eve Allison) and the outcome was that tighter conditions were put on the pub and it’s licensee Demetrios Kotsakis.Among these conditions were that there was no music – live or amplified – after 10pm and that the outdoor area was cleared of people by 10pm, which was reported in the local press here.
Here is some further background to the matter from us:
“Ariadne’s Nectar Bar under possible threat of closure by the council “
“Ariadne’s Nectar Bar under threat of closure AGAIN”
“Foster and Reid: The Planning “Duo of Destruction”
Review: The case for the prosecution
Sarah Lefevre, the barrister acting for the applicant Mr Labarr had talked of Groundhog Day or dèja vu referring to what she desctibed as “same people, same problens same revuews and same outcome” all over again this being the third Licensing review thr pub had been subject to (there has also been another one in 2009) .She had pointed out that there has not been an alternative Licensee for the pub.
Ms Lefevre stated that action against Ariadne’s since 2009 had included a noise abatement notice, a Police interview under caution and fines, as well as the two previous licensing hearings.Winston Labarr said that there had been numerous complaints receive being made about noise that resulted in visits. On those occasions officers had found, music being played after 10pm, and/or people sat outside the outdoor area after 10pm.
Cllr Schmetterling had asked, going back to points raised by residents’ written submissions supporting the pub, as to why the Noise and Nuisance officers had not used devices to record the measurement of sound?
Mr Labarr said that it was not a legal requirement for officers to carry sound monitoring devices and record levels of noise.
The terms on which they use to establish if noise is a nuisance are
– Whether there is a pitch
– The experience of whether the person complaining is a “normal” person (those were his words)
.Some of the Noise and Nuisance officers had turned up to see what a appeared to be private parties goung on as had some Licensing Officers in previous years , and often seen signs saying “Private Party ” out front or officers told there was a private function taking place.
Fiona Johnson, Licensing Officer, had said that for events, Mr Kotaskis needed to apply for a “TEN” – Temporary Events Notice – and that there was no record of one since 2017.
She said that this was the first time she had heard of 3 of these review proceedings taken place against the same premises and same licensee.
She referred to Mr Kotsakis being dismissive in response to action taken against the premises and called for the licence to be revoked.
Cllr Spalding questioned Ms Johnson witu regards to noise, private partoes, people reportedly drinking in there when council officers arrived and with regards to people not being moved from both the seating area outside and being dispersed from outside the pub – all which she had mentioned.:”Can you confirm that all four of these is an absolute breach of the licence?” Ms Johnson: “Yes”
Ashleigh Wilson, the Planning Officer said that the porch and shelter did not comply with planning regulations She told the committee that Mr Kotsakis had failed to comply with the planning enforcement notices served on him .
Ms Lefevre had said it had not just been one neighbour complaining about the noise and that the neighbours have asked to remain anonymous for fear of reprisal.
She said that just because some neighbours living near the pub did not mind noise it didn’t mean that others did not find noise fron the pub disruptive.
Review: The case for the defence
The subject of the neighbour’s conversion had been raised by Mr Kotsakis who suggested that if the walls at the neighbour’s conversion has not been sufficiently insulated then noise – any noise – would leak through to the nrighbour’s property.
Mr Kotsakis asked Ms Johnson if she could confitm that he did not need a TEN to hold a party within licensng hours and Ms Johnson confirmed this.
Mr Kotsakis said that the premises did not apply for a tenporary events notice because there were not private parties held there outside hours. .
Because the previous review had been brought up and added to evidence to this review, Mr Kotsakis then brought up the 2018 review and Eve Allison and claims thay there were fights;, children being harmed etc. “The saga goes on” .He spoke of lies and misrepresentation. “There has never been a fight in this pub”
Ms Johnson :” I wasn’t party to those so I can only go by what was in the review applications and decisions”
Mr Kotsakis: “So is the application the Bible then? and what you take from it is true? Is that how you see it?”
Ms Johnson: Well that is to the best of the applicant’s knowledge I can only report hy what they said in the application”
Mr Kotsakis :All these allegations were dismissed. I remind you why I call it slander”
(Ms Allison the applicant in 2018 had made herself or submitted for others several allegations, all of which , apart from noise escaping were unproven and she admitted to never having been in the pub herself ).
Mr Kotsakis took issue with evidence for this review including evidence that had been submitted to the 2009 and the 2018 hearings and evidemce which was disputable .
Robert Larkins, a resident supporter of the pub present at the review questioned Fiona Johnson about the list of complainants listed A to E and also a question of anonymous complaints: “In most criminal cases anonymous evidemce is rarely accepted and it seems rather bizarre that you accept anonymous complaints regarding noise”
Ms Johnson : “Anyone can make a complaint, they don’t have to divulge thei details Those who I have spoken to have asked that their details are not divulged because of fear of retaliation or reprisals from both the owners amd the customers of the premises. There’s nothing in law to state that a complainant has to give their details ”
Mr Larkins: “That in itself sounds quite derogatory that you’re suggesting thay the licensee would resort to taking reprisals”
Fiona Johnson: ” I can only report what’s been reported to me”
Mr Larkins questioned that if the complainants are anonymous how much weight can be attached to them?
He also pointed out that descriptions of violence seem to refer to 2009.
“So can we draw the conclusion thay since 2009 there has been less violence and less disorder.?””
Fiona Johnson: ” I cannot Sir, no and I can refer refer to the complaints of violence and disorder in 2018 and alnost certainly in 2019 as well”
( These being anonymous unproven written allegations of violence and disorder)
Mr Larkins also commented that it was “interesting” that one complainant was writing “on behalf of residents” .
In response to the Planning Officer, Demetrios Kotsakis said they had erected the porch on the front of the pub to help keep out noise with the advice from sound engineers .
Ms Wilson said that there was no proof that this would help to prevent leakage but then admitted she did not know about sound travelling and said that was for Noise and Nuisance officers .
Robert Larkins, referring to the porch ,planning and noise matter said Mr Kotsakis was “Damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t”
A few other points from the review hearing
– There were a few points of dispute between Mr Kotsakis and RBKC regarding the legitimacy of this review as Mr Kotsakis claimed the appeal would be on the 9th of September but RBKC said they have not received a date of the Court appeal.
– It didn’t help matters for the “Defence” when a video – submitted by the pub supposedly in their favour – was played that showed live musicians (on a piano, a saxophone and a double bass plus a singer) , playing there and Mr Kotsakis had said these were musicians from “The Jazz Age” at the Playground Theatre who had popped in for drinks and played a set. This might have been a good adverisement for live music and the great atmosphere there, but Cllr Bennett did point out the music was loud and Mr Kotsakis did admit they had been playing after 10pm at tiimes.
– Cllr Bennett had put a question regarding the neighbour’s conversion and noise to Sarah Lefevre who responded by saying that there was no evidence of this and it didn’t change the fact that Noise and Nuisance officers arriving heard noise from outside the pub.
Notes from us on some points they missed
– With regards to noise and nuisance being subjective, does that mean that if we were to complain about being able to hear any noise from a neighbour’s property at any time, such as something like a person running a vacuum cleaner round their flat at 2pm , would that be also be treated as a legitimate source of noise and nuisance by council officers?
– Noted were also complaints about music from the neighbours within the pub’s permitted hours. Unless the music was at an excessive volume (and we do suggest for accuracy, that the Noise and Nuisance officers use sound monitoring devices) there shouldn’t really be a problem, other than that the neighbour appears to find any pub that plays music objectionable…
– Sarah Lefevre did claim the letters of support for the pub were “largely identical” and that most of these were from “people who live some consderable distance away”. But in counting letters of support for Ariadne’s and those against just for this 2020 review , we examined just the addresses of both residents who supported – the pub and those against who supported the review and found that in the immediate neighbourhood (ie Latimer Road and its surrounding streets within 5 minutes walk away) that 8 of these letters were in Mr Kotsakis’ favour and 3 of these were against
.- Also looking at the same addresses , we did note that two of these three letters of complaints about the pub which rather strangely, came from an industrial unit in the neighbourhood rather than residential addresses. and we do question therefore whether they would necessarily be residents of the neighbourhood and/or be present after 10pm to witness breaches of the licence and excessive noise and nuisance?
– On the point of private parties, we do know people who live in, above or next to their business premises will from time to time use them as extended living rooms and have private gatherings in these for friends or family. So just because a few people do happen do be there after hours, this does not necessarily mean that the pub is in operation and they are having events there. The signs could be just to deter anyone who isn’t a private guest of the Kotsakis family from disturbing them or from trying to go in who might otherwise assume that the pub is open. Interestingly council officers entering the premises on these occasions did not witness any drinks being served on these occasions.
– Planning, we do have to point out that the local plan that the Planning Officer uses as a point of reference is the St Quintin Woodlands conservation area, the architect of which, Henry Peterson is a regular and supporter of Ariadne’s and who applied for the pub to become an Asset of Community Value late last year. Both the porch and the shelter were in place then and at no point had Mr Peterson formed any objections to these.We are guessing it was the neighbour or her forner councillor friend who made the complaints to the council Planning Officers
We’re disappointed in the “Verdict” and we fear for the future of this much-loved pub which is an asset to the community.
Do we think this this is some kind of conspiracy? Perhaps not, but we do believe that some council officers appear to have taken a rather heavy-handed and one-sided approach and that approach has been firmly against the pub and on the side of the conplaining neighbour, and it is our view that the neighbour has persistently complained because she does not like the pub and the Kotsakis family being there.
As we said before, we struggle to understand why someone would move right by a pub and expect complete peace and quiet?
We spoke to some other neighbours in the same street who submitted support for Ariadne’s and who say the pub is relatively quiet.
Others in the area who too support Ariadne’s did tell us that the pub that was there before did have a bad reputation for violence and trouble and that this welcoming pub has been a “breath of fresh air”
Many of the complaining neighbour’s letters and supporting letters to both the 2018 and the 2020 hearings mentioned smashed glass, broken glass around the pub – anyone who goes to that locality at any time can see that this is patently isn’t true.
Also some of the neighbours letters paint a picture of the pub and its patrons being dirty, smelly and threatening. Again, anyone who visits there can see that this is not true.
Actually the majority of Ariadne’s regulars tend to be either just ordinary people who live in the immediate neighbourhood, creative/artistic types such as musicians actors, and artists, or local political types from the Labour Party in North Kensington – most Labour councillors have attended the pub at some time or another
In fact the two Labour local St Helens ward councillors Mo Bakhtiar and Portia Thaxter, support Ariadne’s and turned up to speak favourably of the pub at the review.
Cultured types who are fond of live music or vocal political debate do not exactly fit the same profile as mindless hooligans glassing each other or gang members lurking in the backstreets, peddling hard drugs to the community and endangering our local children.So we do question the sanity of the person/people making the complaints because if these depictions aren’t crazed exaggerations that go far beyond the boundaries of. reality,; we do not know what isn’t……..Yet these have somehow been taken seriously and added to evidence at reviews while being completely unproven.
Much like the last time, there was repetition of expression and parts of sentences in the complaints letters duplicated: implying the letters were written by one or two people.In our opinion, as we have been regulars at Ariadne’s over the past five yeats, is that it is not a noisy pub and there are far noisier and more crowded pubs in the area situated on main roads and that perhaps the out of the way location of the pub on a quiet street makes any escaping noise far more noticeable than would be on – say Portobello Road or Ladbroke Grove.
We accept that on a few occasions that Ariadne’s have been found to have broken the rules over playing music and over not clearing the outdoor area after the stated time. While the breaches must be dealt with, we feel that stripping Ariadne’s Nectar Bar of their licence is unduly harsh.
If some people now assume all this will be the death sentence for this pub, we have to point out that Ariadne’s Nectar Bar is a comnunity pub that has the support of many residents from North Kensington and beyond – and there are hundreds of local supporters here who will fight to keep the pub going as an independently run pub with character and live music, and not as some sleepy little “village pub (hardly anyone would go there and it would close) and not a high end “gastropub” (there are plenty of these already), both of which no doubt that the vexatious neighbour would prefer.
We North Kensington residents have had to deal with more than our fair share of experience of fighting battles – and the number of us who wish for our community pub to continue in business far outweighs the one or two residents who do not . It looks like we now have yet again, another local community campaign on our hands…..As for the dispute bween Mr Kotsakis and RBKC over appeals , we have since been shown this:
This would appear to confirm that Mr Kotsakis’ appeal is not null and void as RBKC ‘s Legal Officer had said and he does have an appeal over the previous review decision (which imposed tighter conditions on his licence ) due at Westminster Magistrates on the 9th of September.
Ariadne’s Nectar Bar may he closing for now, but this is far from over…..