Hop Stuff Brewery’s Greenwich bar halted after neighbours object to riverside drinking

River Gardens Walk
Hop Stuff applied for a licence for this riverside restaurant unit

Plans for a new Hop Stuff bar in east Greenwich look set to be abandoned after Greenwich councillors refused permission for it to have outdoor drinking by the River Thames.

The Woolwich-based brewery, which already has bars in the Royal Arsenal, Deptford’s Market Yard, and Ashford, Kent, wanted to open up in a restaurant unit at The River Gardens at Lovell’s Wharf.

A three-strong committee of councillors gave Hop Stuff permission to open inside the unit, which sits at the foot at a block of flats, but refused permission for it to use the outdoor area after hearing complaints from residents.

River Gardens
The unit sits below recently-opened flats

Hop Stuff founder James Yeomans said the bar would not be viable without the outdoor area.

Thursday’s hearing also heard from Greenwich Council planning officer Jane Devine, who said the outdoor area needed planning permission; Yeomans told the committee the site’s landlord had told him that the site already had it, but he would be willing to apply if it was needed.

Yeomans said the firm had a track record in successfully managing bars.

“The idea of a Taproom is to encourage people to enjoy our beer and other drinks in an environment we wish to promote: sourdough pizzas, French bread pizzas and artisan drinks. We’ve always been a responsible operator, we’ve had one licence investigation since 2013 which was dismissed.

“We have responsible use of our outdoor areas [at our bars]. The unit is not commercially viable without the outside area.

“I think we create a strong community offering, we encourage families. We’re not a happy hour cheap drinks operator, we operate a premium service.”

River Gardens
Locals feared huge crowds on the riverfront

60 local residents had objected to the bar, with Peninsula councillor Denise Scott-McDonald speaking for them.

“My email box has been bombarded,” she said. “The residents want to make clear that they are not opposed to a business opening there, but they want to make sure it is the right business. They say the Taproom is not an appropriate addition to our community and is bound to have a negative impact on most people in this high-density residential area.”

She said residents had been told by Yeomans there would be “200 happy beer drinkers on the waterfront” and that their development was a different sort of location to Deptford’s Market Yard and Woolwich’s Royal Arsenal.

Adding that riverside drinking would disturb neighbours, she added that the crowds using the Cutty Sark and Trafalgar Tavern’s Thames-side terraces showed what would happen if the Taproom got the go-ahead.

One resident, Peter Bowles, said: “I’ve a two-year-old son and my wife is very concerned about the proximity of the children’s playground to this massive external area… and the smoking and vaping so close to it.

“60 residents [have complained] – I used to work in radio and we used to say one complaint represented 10 people. You’re talking about a huge number of people from hundreds of apartments opposing this application.”

River Gardens development
The unit will now remain empty

Defending his application from Scott-McDonald’s representation, he said: “I’m very aware and very respectful of the concerns of the residents. If it’s not us [that occupies the site] it’ll be another operator, probably with an alcohol licence if it’s a restaurant or a bar.

“I think we, as a local business in the borough, are ideally suited to this, as we’d take a bit more care and attention to local residents than if another bar operator were to move into the site. We can evolve our operating procedures to suit this site.”

Another neighbour, Tim Freeman, spoke up for the application, referring to the success of mixed-use developments by the river in west Greenwich: “I think it’s only right that the east Greenwich riverfront is given the same opportunity.

“It will not only create jobs and bring a natural vibrancy to a bland development, the increased [foot] traffic will encourage people to explore the riverside path. Responsible breweries can be a real asset to their communities and I believe that’s what Hop Stuff are trying to create.”

But after deliberation, the three councillors – Blackheath Westcombe’s Geoff Brighty, Plumstead’s Angela Cornforth and former council leader Denise Hyland – opted only to license the indoor area.

“There isn’t any point granting a licence with that scenario,” Yeomans told committee chair Brighty.

There was better news for Hop Stuff, though with the committee approving a licence to serve alcohol at its new brewery in White Hart Avenue, Thamesmead.

The brewery’s landlord had objected to the plans, and again the committee granted a licence for indoor areas only. Hop Stuff now plans to run tours of the new site, which is due to replace its original Woolwich brewery next month.

Most of the meeting – starting with parts of the Thamesmead discussion and followed by the full Greenwich hearing – is on this YouTube playlist.

Update 6 September: The full reasons for refusal reveal that the committee made its decision based on fears of noise and anti-social behaviour, and not because the outside area did not have planning permission, as claimed elsewhere.

“The Sub-Committee was of the view that the noise and public nuisance from the external area would be significant. The extent of the external area and the numbers of people that could be attending, up to 200, would have significant impact on public nuisance and disturbance to residents.

“The Sub-Committee was of the view that the close proximity of the children’s play area would be impacted upon by the use of the external area and the objective of prevention of harm to children was strongly engaged. The Sub-Committee also considered the impact on the immediate public area, the cycle path and the footpath , and where would up to 200 patrons move to upon the external area being closed, if the application was granted, given the internal dimensions of the premises. The Sub-Committee also had concerns resulting from overcrowding, littering on the cycle path and footpath, and potential for anti-social behaviour, and crime and disorder.

“In reaching its decision the Sub-Committee disregarded commercial considerations and the absence of planning permission, and determined the application to give effect to the licensing objectives.”

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