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Council orders pub to serve slowly

By order of the council Worth waiting for: A barlady at the Newman Arms slowly pours a drink Pic: Nigel Howard A pub landlady has been told to serve her customers more slowly as part of a deal with Westminster Council to help her retain her licence. Staff at the Newman Arms in Fitzrovia have been told they should fully complete every transaction before they move on to the next customer, meaning they would not take a new order while waiting for a pint to settle or while waiting for a credit card to be cleared. Pub industry chiefs have branded the official recommendation “ludicrous and bizarre” while landlady Tracy Bird and her daughter Amber Hunt, who manages the bar, saw takings fall by more than £1,000 when the go-slow came into effect for the first time last Friday. The condition is not a legal requirement for the pub but has been recommended by council officials following a jokey remark by Ms Hunt at a mediation meeting designed to avoid a review of the licence. She said: “We are in a quiet street and we have never had any trouble but the pub down the road has had its licence revoked so I decided to set up a meeting with Westminster Council to see if there were things we could address before they decided to review ours. “We have lots of people drinking outside and we know Westminster wants to clamp down on that, At the meeting I just said as a joke, maybe we should serve people more slowly so we get fewer people coming. “It was meant to be sarcastic but they immediately said they thought that would be a good idea and then we got an email saying we should go ahead. We couldn’t believe they were taking it seriously but I feel like we’re stuck between and a rock and a hard place because we don’t want to fall foul of the council and our licence reviewed or revoked. “It’s a bit ridiculous. The council don’t like us being busy outside but we are busy because we have really efficient bar staff. They hate the new rule and business is suffering.” The pub is on a cobbled mews and is only open weekdays. Mrs Bird added: “We have never had any complaints from residents about noise, there’s no problem with violence - we’re just a popular local pub.” Martin Rawlings, of the Britsh Beer and Pub Association, said: “This is an utterly bizarre case. “I doubt Westminster Council could impose these ludicrous conditions under our licensing laws, if it tried. “We’ve lost a lot of London pubs in recent years, and 100,000 jobs depend on brewing and pubs in the capital. They really could do with a break from this absurd approach.” A spokesman for Westminster Council confirmed the proposal for the slow-paced serving had come up in the mediation meeting and had been taken as a serious suggestion rather than a joke, but said it was not a legal condition of the licence. Cllr Audrey Lewis, Westminster City Council licensing chairman, said: “Staff at the Newman Arms are free to serve drinks at whatever pace they choose. “The idea to slow down service came entirely from the pub owner. While it might have been meant light-heartedly, all suggestions by the landlady were taken seriously by officers because we wanted to work with the pub owners to avoid a review of their license. "That was the point of having a mediation meeting to discuss congestion outside the pub, in which their solicitor was present. “Although sent in good faith, the suggestion referred to by our officer via email was daft because it is not a condition the council could enforce anyway.” 'Let people enjoy themselves' Drew de Soto, 42, art gallery owner, from Fitzrovia, said: “One of the things that’s best about London is the outside culture. What they’re suggesting destroys that culture, and it’s a shame. I would rather live in a place where people enjoy themselves than take that away from London.” Emily Cookson, 23, student services officer, from Streatham said: “Personally I think it’s ridiculous. It’s someone’s livelihood at the end of the day. The next thing you know they’ll go to theatres and say ‘it’s too loud when they’re leaving’. “You either put people out of work or deal with the fact you’re in a busy city.” Astrid Gunn, 24, team coordinator, from Forest Hill, said: “I think it’s a bit silly really. There are huge pubs just down on the corner, with people spilling out all over the street. “I don’t really think it’s fair to take it out on such a small pub that a lot of people have affection for.” David Hansel, 45, solicitor, from Notting Hill, said: “There are so many pubs closed round here, and you’ve got Westminster saying the pubs that remain have to kettle people. It’s strange.” Kylie McLean, 37, graphic designer, from Fitzrovia, said: “It’s absolute nonsense – we’re right next to Soho. It’s the only character pub we have left around here that isn’t a chain. By midnight it’s quiet as a mouse round here.” Sion Davies, 35, managing director of a design and building company, from Clapham, said: “This is one of the few pubs where you can get a bit of community spirit and integration going. I challenge anyone to find someone who complains about this pub.” Paul Longdin, 37, structural engineer, from Chislehurst, Kent, said: “It would seem they’re forced to make some kind of bespoke rules on individual businesses, which seems quite unfair. “I’ve never noticed any kind of a problem with what’s going on outside, apart from occasional cars not being able to get past. How that equates to a social problem, I don't know." inShare1 Evening Standard 5/10/2012

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