Troubled Ham pub - Hand & Flower - set to re-open, but only after £100,000 make-over

By Charlotte Lillywhite - Local Democracy Reporter

20th Jun 2022 | Local News

Story by Charlotte Lilywhite and Rory Poulter

The owners of the troubled Hand & Flower pub in Ham have won the right to re-open.

Councillors have granted the Stonegate Group, which is the UK's biggest pub company, a drinks licence that will allow them to push ahead with plans to welcome back locals.

Company chiefs have suggested the scale of the refurbishment, likely to cost more than £100,000, will take some time to complete – pushing back opening until September.

The Hand & Flower has been closed since November last year after the alcohol licence was removed on the advice of the police amid widespread criminality.

Residents complained of fights and antisocial behaviour as well as evidence that teenagers were working behind the bar.

The licensee was evicted earlier this year and Stonegate, previously the EI Group, say they want to refurbish and re-open the pub as a food based business with premium drinks.

An initial application to allow the pub to open until 1.30am at weekends was dropped following objections from residents who feared noise and antisocial behaviour continuing into the early hours.

The hours that have been agreed are 10am to 11pm on Sundays to Thursdays, and 10am to 12am on Fridays and Saturdays.

There are limits on use of the outside area surrounding the pub to minimise disturbance to neighbours. These run from 10am to 10pm from Sunday through to Thursday, and 10am to 10.30pm on Friday and Saturday.

The decision was made by Richmond Council's licensing sub-committee. A solicitor for the pub company, Richard Taylor, told councillors: "We will find a new tenant about whom we will liaise with the police to ensure that new tenant is suitable, that new tenant will be a proven operator and we will retain the premises licence and the way we see this pub moving forward is effectively a food-led public house with premium drinks – effectively to reflect and complement the area in which it sits.

"We want these premises to be a benefit to the community rather than a burden upon it, and we fully acknowledge that things went wrong before."

In a ruling published on the Council website, the Committee said it was 'satisfied that granting this amended application with conditions would not undermine the prevention of crime and disorder or the prevention of public nuisance licensing objectives'.

It added: "The Licensing Sub-Committee were satisfied that the amended opening hours proposed by the Applicant would significantly alleviate the concerns raised by local residents around late night opening.

"The Licensing Sub-Committee noted that E.I./Stonegate Group were experienced and reputable operators with a track record of responsibly managing a nationwide chain of such premises, as one of the largest pub groups in the Country.

"The Licensing Sub-Committee were satisfied that the Applicant had taken all necessary action as far as was possible to address the serious mismanagement of the premises by a previous tenant, eventually leading to the tenant being evicted.

"The Licensing Sub-Committee were mindful of the close proximity of residential properties around the premises. The Licensing Sub-Committee were of the view that this required the careful management of the outside area of the premises. The Licensing Sub-Committee therefore imposed additional conditions relating to the use of the outside areas to the front and rear of the premises to ensure that local residents living in close proximity to the premises were safeguarded from noise nuisance."

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