New court fight as troubled Guildhall Walk bar bids to open later

LATE LICENCE The Roast Bar in Guildhall Walk, Portsmouth
LATE LICENCE The Roast Bar in Guildhall Walk, Portsmouth
Picture: Hampshire Constabulary

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CITY officials face a fresh court battle after a troubled bar appealed against a decision to cut its opening hours.

Roast in Portsmouth’s Guildhall Walk was ordered in February to shut at 1.30am instead of 4am following police complaints about underage drinking and alcohol-fuelled trouble.

Officers had called for the venue’s licence to be revoked.

City council licensing officials decided Roast could keep its licence, but imposed conditions including stopping entertainment and alcohol sales two hours earlier at 1am. Now Roast has appealed in a bid to get its late licence reinstated. A loophole in the law means the bar can stay open until 4am seven days a week until the appeal is heard at Portsmouth Magistrates Court in August.

PC Keith Hall from Portsmouth’s licensing team said: ‘In the case of the Roast Bar, with the latest opening hours in the Guildhall Walk, people gather there and due to the alcohol in their system, will cause fights. If such late opening hours were resisted, we would not have so many incidents. The licensing committee has looked at this venue and on balance, agrees that the best way to reduce public disorder and crime, is to close the venue earlier.

‘The decision is welcomed by myself as the licensing officer and the alcohol-related violent crime reduction unit.’

Superintendent Norman Mellors of Portsmouth police has said that he has alcohol-fuelled crime as one of his highest priorities.

The decision to cut Roast’s opening hours was the second time in four years the bar has been rapped for alcohol-related trouble. In 2007 Roast’s licence was cut by two hours to 1am. Magistrates overturned the decision in 2008. However police have kept a close watch on the venue and other bars in the city.

As revealed in The News on Saturday, police and city council officials are standing firm in their tough stance against alcohol-related trouble in the city in the face of pressure from bars. Pure bar in Guildhall Walk – formerly Route 66 – has persistently tried to get a later licence to serve alcohol until 3am, closing at 3.30am. Now owner Atmosphere Bars and Clubs is considering appealing the latest decision by licensing officials to turn down their bid. Nobody from Roast was available to comment.