A new gallery is set to open in Eastbourne after being granted a premises licence by town councillors this week.
Eastbourne Borough Council’s licensing sub-committee has granted a licence for the supply of alcohol and the performance of live music at 32 Cornfield Road.
The new premises – licenced to Jaswant Bhopal and expected to trade as The G&Tea Gallery – has however proven controversial with some neighbours, who have raised concerns around noise and anti-social behaviour.
Before making its decision on Monday (April 1), the committee heard representations from Melanie Bell, a neighbour who lives in a flat above Cornfield Road.
She said: “I’m sure the door will be left open and alcohol consumed outside whatever regulations are put in place.
“No amount of notices telling them what they can and can’t do will be sufficient.
“The lane [behind Cornfield Road] is used late at night by revellers as a toilet and smoking area as well as for drugs use and dealing. The police are aware but it still goes on.
“We do not need extra sources of aggravation here.”
Ms Bell also raised concerns about disturbance from outside seating, which had been included with Ms Bhopal’s application but was said to have since been abandoned.
She added that there is no sound-proofing within the building, so any live performances or DJ sets – also mentioned in the application – would ‘seriously affect’ her quality of life.
However the sub-committee also heard from Ms Bhopal’s partner Chris Schmidt, who said objectors had the wrong impression of what was now being proposed.
He said: “Contrary to these speculations she is not opening a night club, comedy club or utilising DJs as has been assumed.
“She is opening a cafe gallery, a cultural hub, where she will be curating and promoting a different Eastbourne artist’s work every month.
“Each artist will have a limited attendance, invitation-only, private view evening where they will be served a complimentary glass of prosecco while they enjoy the exhibition.
“On a daily basis the gallery will hold conventional hospitality daytime hours to be determined by customer demand with additional retail sales of art, cards and original creative gifts made by these local artists.
“Occasionally – but not midweek – the gallery may host small, live events such as a spoken word book or poetry reading, music events which would be acoustic and unamplified and discussion groups.”
Mr Schmidt also said Ms Bhopal intended to install a music system to play ‘background’ music, but not for DJs as mentioned in the application.
He added that Ms Bhopal was formerly a senior officer in the National Crime Agency and would be aware of the issues around drugs use and anti-social behaviour, which some objectors had also raised as a concern.
Mr Schmidt also confirmed Ms Bhopal no longer planned to have outside seating as part of the cafe gallery, despite this being part of a licensing condition from Sussex Police.
After private deliberations the sub-committee approved the licence with a modified condition.
Sub-committee chairman Cllr Pat Hearn said: “The sub-committee resolved to grant the premises licence, with a modified condition that no alcohol is to be consumed outside the premises at any time.
“This replaces the mediated conditions between the applicant and the police.
“The sub-committee is content, after a full clarification with the applicant about the uses of the premises, that these premises would not add to the cumulative impact of the area or undermine the licensing objectives.”