Plans for 3am alcohol licence at Cardiff's Coal Exchange criticised
The hotel's future lay in question after it previous owners went into administrationby Alex Seabrook
Neighbours living next to Cardiff’s Coal Exchange hotel have complained about a new plan to sell alcohol late at night.
The hotel’s future lay in question after its previous owners, Signature Living Coal Exchange Ltd, went into administration in May this year.
A firm called Eden Grove Properties is now applying for a licence to run the Coal Exchange, on Mount Stuart Square in Butetown.
Eden Grove is applying for a premises licence to sell alcohol at the hotel, off and on the premises, until 3am seven nights a week.
But local residents living on Mount Stuart Square have complained they have already suffered from the prolonged building work on the Grade-II listed hotel.
Cardiff council ’s licensing committee will vote whether to grant the premises licence at a public meeting on September 18. A report to that meeting included several comments from unnamed people living near to the Coal Exchange, objecting to the licence.
One resident said: “While I understand this may seem trivial issues in the grand scheme of things, this has had huge impacts for us as property owners.
“I, for example, have not opened my bedroom blinds in years because of the builders being at eye-level, and I often received homophobic abuse from them after it became clear I lived with a same-sex partner.
“Never-ending construction work combined with all the other noise pollution from the hotel has impacted on the mental health of some residents, and for me, personally, has tarnished what should have been an exciting time after buying my first property.”
Another resident complained about parking lost to builders, and called for an earlier closing time. They said: “Parking for visitors has been almost completely lost to the Coal Exchange site. Noise had been constant, until the company ran out of funds. Litter and dirt has had an impact on neighbours’ lives.
“If all licences were restricted to before midnight then the application would be more appropriate for what is now a residential area. The late hours applied for seem more relevant to a nightclub than a hotel in an important, historically significant building.”
A third resident highlighted how Cardiff Bay has suffered from drunken revellers recently as the coronavirus lockdown was relaxed, and claimed the licence at the Coal Exchange could add to those problems.
The third resident said: “The square is a quiet residential area of great character. I accept that it is desirable to get some life back into the Coal Exchange and give it some sort of business use.
“When it was functioning as a hotel, the activities inside, in terms of music and dancing, seemed reasonable on the whole — although there was occasional noise late at night from people drinking outside, banging car doors and preparing to leave.
“However, it is totally inappropriate to have entertainment inside at all hours and to have music and dancing as late as 4am. Why not finish at 1am? Boxing and wrestling? Not a good way to regenerate the area as a desirable place to live and visit.
“And selling alcohol until 3am for consumption off the premises is unacceptable. The relaxation of Covid-19 lockdown has brought its own difficulties and led to more disturbances in this area recently. These licensing proposals are just asking for more trouble.”
Ashley Govier, the former Cardiff councillor behind Eden Grove, said the hotel was simply replacing the licence held by the former owners, which had lapsed.
Mr Govier said the hotel needed a licence to be able to open, save jobs, allow planned weddings to go ahead, and so the building work can finally come to an end.
He said: “It’s not much different from the previous licence and mostly what was there before. The police and the council aren’t objecting to it, and of course we will take into consideration residents’ concerns.
“This building has forever sold alcohol, either as an events venue previously, or as a hotel. I’m fairly confident that we should be OK. Some of the issues raised are around construction issues, which aren’t matters relevant to licensing, but still frustrating for residents.
“It’s a hotel, it’s not a nightclub. Of course we are going to take noise into consideration. We’re having residents sleeping in the hotel, so it’s in our interest to keep noise to sensible levels.”
Depending on whether the licence is granted, Mr Govier is hoping to start running the hotel by the end of September. Mr Govier said progress was being made “every week”, but getting the licence was “crucial”.
Mr Govier said: “We’ve still got more to do around Covid assessments. It’s a complex situation but we’re certainly moving forward. Staff are with the new company now.
“The licence is crucial. We’re looking to commit to weddings paid for by the previous company. We’ve said we will host some of those, but that depends on the licence. You can’t have a wedding without alcohol, and we can’t be a hotel without a drinks licence.
“It’s a fantastic building and a great hotel, with great staff. We have to get it going. People living near here want this building finished, for their own benefit.”