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York licensing specialist highlights trend away from ‘vertical drinking’ and urges new licence applicants to focus on a family friendly environment

John Walker, Senior Partner and Licensing specialist at Guest Walker & Co, has issued an update to the firms’ commercial property clients advising them that if they are considering applying for a Premises Licence in the area of central York covered by the Cumulative Impact Zone, they should focus on providing a ‘family friendly’ experience and not encourage ‘vertical drinking’ i.e. people standing up in bars/pubs/restaurants.

The advice comes in the midst of debate in York about its ‘drinking culture’ and supports the City’s tourism strategy, which aims to develop York’s evening economy by creating a family friendly ambience, offering live entertainment, events, and mixed-use food and drink venues where residents and visitors can relax with their families.

John commented: “There is a presumption for any new licence application that it will be rejected unless the applicant can rebut the likelihood that the granting of it would undermine the Licensing objectives in the City of York Council’s Cumulative Impact Zone.  Whilst this previously focused on the western side of the river Ouse and the ‘Micklegate run’, it now incorporates the Swinegate/Fossgate areas, and is meant to curb the number of new licensed premises in the ‘zone’.

Whilst a number of new premises have been successful in being granted licenses in these areas, including the former Army & Navy Stores on Fossgate, Carluccio’s in Coppergate and most recently Ambiente Tapas in Fossgate, there is a clear trend away from new licences being given to those offering ‘vertical drinking’ only.

I would strongly suggest that operators who focus on supplying food to customers who are sitting down, and who can offer a family friendly environment, are best placed to succeed with their applications in the future. A licensing application is also expected to be made for a property on Little Stonegate, York.  This is right in the heart of the new primary leisure circuit in York and I am sure there will be stern resistance from the police and great reluctance to grant a Premises Licence from the local authority, if there is any significant element of vertical drinking proposed.  The owners of a number of other properties will watch the outcome of this application with great interest.”

According to Visit York, demand for a more family friendly choice in the evening is growing.  Kate McMullen, Head of Visit York said: “The evening economy in York is constantly evolving, as is evident in the significant number of new eateries which have opened in York.  When it comes to eating and drinking, visitors tell us they are looking for a mixed use, family friendly environment, where they can relax, enjoy some delicious food and drink and enjoy entertainment such as live music.  Visitors are also keen to eat and then take in a theatre show or ghost walk, so we’re keen to encourage new ventures which are keen to work in partnership with the cultural sector.’

John Walker added:  “There is a great opportunity here for operators whose vision mirrors that of the Council to provide these facilities, and help promote the development of a successful evening economy in our City.  We are privileged to have a beautiful, historic backdrop to work with and now need to encourage our entrepreneurs to offer both residents and visitors great choice and a great atmosphere throughout York city centre after 6pm.”