Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Chorlton-cum-Hardy: Yes to More Independent Cafe Bars

A few weeks ago I started drafting a post about the issue of bars in Chorlton. With one thing and another it didn't make it to fruition. But Stephen Newton is right on the money with this post resisting the concept of a bar on bars.

While no-one in Chorlton would want to see a complete free-for-all or anything like the beer monstery calamity that Didsbury has become under Lib Dem rule there is still scope for more small bars, cafes and restaurants in Chorlton.

We probably have enough takeaways for a lifetime. But cafe bars not only drive business for those takeaways but also via the promenaders' window shop and their own trade for food retailers, clothes retailers, estate agents and the rest.

Moving to the area more than 25 years ago I found a virtual beer and food desert. I lived for a year in an attic room in a shared house one street away from the current family home. There was the Royal Oak at the crossroads. Quite a trek. The Lloyds 200 yards further. And a pub known then as The Seymour, later The Grove, now departed. Or a big expedition to a cluster of pubs on Beech Road and the Green. All still going strong.

Now to get to the Royal Oak - a large beer palace with Sky Football and an old school pub crowd - I get to pass the Polar Bar, The Bar, Tom Tom'sThe Bean Counter (but renamed), Abode, Revision and Dulcimer. Across the lights on the way to the Lloyds there are more. We have an excellent Weatherspoons name of Sedge Lynn. And there's Lucid, The Beer House, Iguana and so on.

The Spread Eagle is another arrival in the last decade or so. That's a traditional pub - opposite the Lloyds. There is a Varsity coming soon - and that, barring the four traditional pubs, is the only obvious non-independent and the only potential "vertical drinking" addition.

In the olden days the only local late food was from a very very brown Tundoor. This had an uncomplementary nickname. Now we have Australian, Japanese, Turkish, Italian, Indian, Bengali, Greek, Spanish, Persian, Mandarin, English, Canadian, Continental, Cantonese food and more. There is plenty of niche room still.

Including Chorlton, Longford, Chorlton Park and our end of Whalley Range and Fallowfield wards we have 30-35,000 hungry and thirsty residents within convenient walking distance or three stops on the night bus.

And that's a key thing. Very few cars are implicated in a night out in Chorlton.

Twenty two new licences in ten years does indeed sound a lot. Though they are spread around approximately two to three miles of highways. Most of them are little more than a couple or three domestic rooms-worth with an average say 100 covers apiece.

Councillor Sheila Newman is absolutely right to try to box off the perfidious Lib Dem moaners and Stephen realises that that is what's afoot. But a complete moratorium, and there is no other sort, is surely not the answer?

Every night at kicking out time I am out and about in Chorlton on a constitutional with my dogs. Very often covering the busiest block of bars en route. There's generally no sign of trouble, no obvious neighbour nuisance, no noise spill and no pub crawl, stag or hen rowdies.

No great drunkeness, and clean-ish pavements.

Although there remain some dark back roads the animation of the main streets, providing a natural surveillance, and the new improved lighting makes these streets feel much much safer than in the olden days.

Every application should be judged on its merits I feel. That is the law in any case, except in far more extreme cases of concentration or cases of crime, disorder or extreme nuisance.

In particular it would be astoundingly unfair to try to spike applications that are in progress and whose owners have received green lights in principle from planning officials. Local planning guidelines could keep most licenced premises at the smaller end of the scale and more likely to remain independent. But let's face down the Lib Dems for being illiberal opportunists.

Don't agree with the Tesco bashing either. But that's for another day.


Stephen Newton said...

Thanks for the plug. Tesco bashers were protesting outside Esso today, I nearly stopped for a photo, but the Reporter was there so I'll wait... I suspect we'll agree on that issue too.

Chris Paul said...

You may well be right on that Stephen. Two posts on Tesco today.