Licence is granted for new venture at site of former bar

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PART of the Portland Hotel in Southsea could open as a bistro for ‘middle class customers’ as an alcohol licence application was agreed by councillors.

The owner of The Garage Lounge, Alex Sargeson, is named as the sole director of Igloo (Southsea) Ltd, which applied to Portsmouth City Council for an alcohol and entertainment licence, including music and films.

Yesterday, the council’s licensing sub-committee approved the proposal, giving the company permission to serve alcohol between the hours of 10am to 11.30pm Sunday to Thursday and until midnight on Friday and Saturdays.

A number of objections to the proposals were made by residents living close to the Kent Road hotel, including three at the meeting.

However, the committee needed tangible proof that the opening of a bistro would cause the antisocial behaviour, noise and nuisance they had complained of.

Ward councillor Linda Symes said: ‘It is in close proximity to the church and residential homes. At the moment it is quiet in the evenings. It is going to be a big change for the local population.’

Mr Sargeson said he was looking to open an establishment with ‘mature and responsible’ customers, saying it would not be like the former Havana Bar, which lost its alcohol licence in 2011 when its then owner was made insolvent.

He said he has already spent thousands of pounds soundproofing parts of the building.

Landscaping of the garden could create space for up to 100 people to sit outside during the day.

The committee was told without the licence, the plans to redevelop the building into a boutique hotel may not go ahead.

Mr Sargeson said: ‘Without the licence at the moment, everything is in limbo. If we can get the licence back we can get the place going and bring some money in.

‘A bistro may be opened in the short-term but if the hotel plan goes through, we could turn it into part of the hotel in the long term.’

Graham Lovatt, who lives in neighbouring Queens Crescent, said after the meeting: ‘I am very disappointed with the licensing committee’s decision. This is a return to the bad old days of the Havana Bar with vandalism, noise and other antisocial behaviour.

‘I do hope the applicant keeps his promise to run a quiet, high quality bistro.’