London's bars and pubs threatened with complaints from neighbours

EXCLUSIVE: How London’s nightlife is shutting down: Soho bars forced to close early, George’s Orwell’s favourite pub faces axe, Printworks pulls down shutters and revellers can’t drink past 11pm as neighbours who miss the peace and quiet in lockdown moan about noise

  • EXCLUSIVE: pubs, clubs and bars across the capital are being threatened with closure over noise complaints 
  • Bosses of boozers in London claim that NIMBYs started moaning more after the country came out of lockdown
  • Owners say those who moved during lockdown got used to the ‘Covid quiet’, forgetting what the city is like 
  • It comes as the 200-year-old Compton Arms in Islington is threatened with closure over a noise complaint
  • Printworks London announced this week it would be closing for a ‘number of years’ from the start of 2023   
  • Are pubs in your area being shut down because of noise complaints? Email [email protected] 

Londoners are fighting to save the city’s nightlife after becoming fed-up with the constant noise complaints threatening to close their local boozers.

Fury was first sparked this summer when the 200-year-old Compton Arms in Islington, north London, was threatened with closure after four new neighbours who moved into the area during lockdown complained that revellers were too noisy, and that the venue was a danger to health.

While pub-goers from all over the capital have jumped to the venue’s defence, the iconic pub, that inspired George Orwell’s essay on the perfect boozer, is now facing having its licence revoked by Islington Council because of the grumbles. The case is due to be heard on October 12.

The Compton Arms, however, is not the only historic venue across London under threat because of noise complaints from new neighbours – in the last six months alone, more than 20 venues across the capital have come under fire for their noisy customers.

Pub bosses and landlords claim the pandemic resulted in more noise complaints as people got used to the ‘Covid quiet’ – with one saying ‘my heart sinks into my stomach’ any time someone is too noisy in her pub.

And noise complaints are not the only issue threatening what was once a buzzing capital city’s nightlife.

Plans to renovate clubs and bars into spaces for flats and offices are causing what were once popular venues to vanish from London’s nighttime economy.

The UK’s economic turmoil, spurred on by the ongoing energy crisis, high inflation rate and spooked markets, are also causing boozers across the country to close their doors forever.

Earlier this week, punters were issued another blow after pub giant Wetherspoons announced it would be shutting down 32 of its venues – 14 of which are in London.

The giant boozer, which operates 800 pubs across the UK, said it made the ‘commercial decision’ after it warned it could lose up to £30 million due to rising energy costs and high inflation.

It comes as one of London’s most popular night time venues, Printworks London, announced it would close its doors ‘for a number of years’ despite being thrown a lifeline to potentially stop existing plans to convert the club into offices. 

More than 20 venues across London have been threatened with noise complaints from angry neighbours since the start of 2022 

The Compton Arms in Islington, north London, a 200-year-old iconic pub that inspired an Orwellian essay on the perfect boozer could face closure after four neighbours who moved in during lockdown complained about noisy revellers and ‘piles of rubbish’

There are fewer pubs in England and Wales than ever before, according to analysis that sheds light on the ruinous impact of the coronavirus pandemic and soaring business costs. Two hundred pubs vanished from English and Welsh communities from the end of 2021 up to the end of June, taking the total number down to 39,973 pubs

Matt Porter, 24, who manages Simmons Bar in Soho said that the venue gets noise complaints ‘all the time’ from the ‘older generation’ who says its ‘too loud’

Joseph Kelly (right) and Peter Brand (left) are both regular drinkers at The Asparagus in Battersea, South London. The pub is one the Wetherspoons’ venues set to close 

Following the Wetherspoons’ announcement publican and social commentator Adam Brooks warned that ‘it will be a matter of ‘use it or lose it’ for many local pubs this winter’.

He added: ‘My local Wetherspoons is being sold, prime High Road position in an area with very affluent people but also nearby council estates.

‘If they are pulling out, imagine how hard the Independents are finding it.’

The Asparagus in Battersea, South London, is one of the victim’s of the Wetherspoon’s closures. The pub is known for more than a place to drink and eat, but also for its sense of community.

Joseph Kelly, 72, one of the first people to set foot in the pub when it opened back in 1998, said: ‘I have been here since it first opened. I was the first feet in the door. I have loads of friends here and I have met so many people over the years at this very pub.

‘I will miss coming across here every day. Even when its raining I come over to the pub. I just hope it will still be open for my birthday on the 19th October so I can have a few pints of Guinness.’

Peter Brand, 55, who has been drinking in The Asparagus for 10 years, said: ‘I love bringing my kids here, they love it. It’s such a family place. The kids can come and do what they want, its so safe and they know everyone and everyone knows them.

‘Other pubs don’t cater for the local community like this one does. Pubs like this are based on community and that is hard to find.’

Elsewhere in London, venues are being threatened with closure to make way for housing and commercial properties.  

Printworks London in Surrey Quays. The electronic music venue is set to close ‘for a number of years’ in 2023. Earlier this year it was announced that the old printing press venue would be converted into offices, but the venue announced a possible U-turn could take place

Printworks, who is owned by Broadwick Live, published a statement on Twitter regarding the future of the night time venue

An empty dance floor at Printworks London. The venue was once the printing press for the Evening Standard 

Earlier this week, Printworks announced it could return to its beloved venue, after more than 11,000 heartbroken clubbers pitched together to sign an online petition to save the event. 

In July, Southwark Council announced the iconic Surrey Quays venue, which holds up to 6,000 partygoers and has featured internationally renowned DJs such as Peggy Gou, would be closing its doors to make way for more office space.

This week the popular electronic music club, once home to the printing press for the London Evening Standard, confirmed that it is still set to close in 2023 ‘for a number of years’ but added it was in the midst of talks with its developer, British Land, over the possibility to ‘return to the venue following the site’s redevelopment’.

In a statement on Twitter the venue, which is owned by Broadwick Live, said: ‘We’re pleased to confirm that in partnership with British Land we’re in detailed talks about our return to our much-loved venue.

‘While there is still a detailed planning process that needs to take place before we can 100% confirm the future of Printworks, we’re positive about our future’.

While the U-turn might save Printworks, other venues across the capital are struggling to keep noise complaints from NIMBY’s under control.

Hackney’s hopping nightlife is just one area of the capital facing similar complaints in the post-pandemic world.

The Jago arts and cultures venue, known as ‘the beating heart of Hackney’, has seen a rise in noise complaints since the country emerged from lockdowns and faces having to reduce its trading hours.

General manager Kwame Otiende, who has been running the venue since 2018, told MailOnline: ‘Before the pandemic, we never had any noise complaints.

Kwame Otiende (pictured), general manager of the Jago in Dalston, said the venue, known as ‘the beating heart of Hackney’, has seen a rise in noise complaints since the country emerged from lockdowns

The Jago arts and cultures venue, known as ‘the beating heart of Hackney’, has seen a rise in noise complaints since the country emerged from lockdowns and faces having to reduce its trading hours

The Jago has created an online petition to save itself and other venues in Hackney from the ‘rising noise complaints’ the area is getting. So far, more than 2,000 people have signed it 

Londoner’s have taken to social media to protect their beloved boozers and music venues. An online petition to save The Jago in Dalston has received more than 2,000 signatures 

‘These noise complaints all started after the pandemic so it’s quite clear that a lot of people that used to live in Hackney moved away, because a lot of them worked in the creative industry.

‘Then we had a whole new set of people move in because they heard that Hackney is cool and hip but they had did not realise what it means to live in an area of culture’.

Mr Otiende believes that most of the noise complaints being handed to his venue, as well as neighbouring venues such as The Haggerston jazz pub, are all coming from a single home where the residents moved in during lockdown.

The music venue was previously threatened with closure as developers wanted to turn it into a residential block but Hackney Council put a stop to the plans making it an asset of community value.

He added: ‘It’s not that we don’t care about anyone that says they can hear noise because the people that come to our venues live in this borough and we do care that our operations don’t affect our community.

‘But at the same time, these noise complaints are a stereotypical case of someone moving next to a church and complaining about church bells. 

‘If you move to Hackney, you know it’s an inner city borough and that there will be some level of noise, whether that’s passing traffic or people on the high street.’

The venue has now created a petition online to protect The Jago and other music venues in Hackney, such as the Haggerston Pub, against the ‘rising number of noise complaints’.

The George Tavern, in Stepney, successfully overcame a battle with a housing company that wanted to build more than 200 flats adjacent to the venue in the disused Stepney’s Nightclub. It said building flats next door would result in more noise complaints

Luke Robert Black, deputy chair of LGBT+ Conservatives, said that he looks at ‘the decline of London’s hospitality and nightlife sector with despair’ 

So far, it has received more than 2,000 signatures. One social media user who shared the campaign said: ‘The plight of London: people who move into areas with cultural character and/or value, attracted by their unique reference points – then turning around and shoving them into the ground’.

A spokesperson for the Mayor of London said that the Culture and Community Spaces at Risk team had been working with The Jago.

It added that the Culture at Risk Office, which was created in 2016, aims to protect London’s grassroots and world-leading cultural infrastructure.  

Other Islington pubs, located near The Compton Arms, fear that if the historical boozer is shut down, their venues are also at risk.

Maria Roche, 61, who runs The Jolly Sisters pub in Islington, north London, said that her pub had even received noise complaints from those living nearby because her ‘cooler was making noise’ even though ‘it wasn’t over any noise limit’.

She said: ‘It is a massive problem.

‘People think they have a right to silence in their home and it creates big problems for local pubs.

‘People have been drinking outside in the hot weather and every time someone raises their voice, my heart goes into my stomach.

‘You can’t run a pub now in the way you used to years ago.’

It comes after the trade body, UK Hospitality, predicted more than 10,000 pubs and restaurants could close thanks to a ‘perfect storm’ of inflation, soaring energy costs and rising rents.

The case to have The Compton’s Arms licence revoked will be heard on October 12 at Islington council’s sub-committee 

The Compton Arms was the inspiration for George Orwell’s (pictured) 1964 essay ‘The Moon Under Water’ published in the Evening Standard in which he described his perfect pub

Ja Norman, who manages the Myddleton Arms pub in Islington, has been forced to shut its garden at 10 pm to reduce noise for their neighbours. He said a handful of neighbours in the area had ‘got used to the silence’ during lockdowns

The number of pubs across the country has now dropped to 40,000 – a loss of more than 7,000 in the last decade – meaning their are fewer pubs in England and Wales than ever before.

Ms Roche added: ‘I am really shocked and upset by what has happened to The Compton Arms.

‘They run a very good pub. It is really difficult, I can’t express enough how difficult it is.

‘You have to try and make customers happy but then you can just end up with complaints.

‘I am surprised they have got that hanging over them.’

Other pubs across the capital have been left to battle plans for new flats over fears that it will result in more noise complaints.

Londoner’s have taken to Twitter to hit out the ‘dire state’ of London night life, claiming that other parts of the UK, outside of the capital, have more to offer

Earlier this year the renowned George Tavern, in Stepney, where Amy Winehouse used to play and Kate Moss used to visit, successfully overcame a battle with a housing company that wanted to build more than 200 flats adjacent to the venue in the disused Stepney’s Nightclub.

Speaking at the time of the ‘Save the George Tavern’ campaign, manager of the pub Tom Walston told MyLondon, that noise should be expected from anyone moving to an area historically known for its nightlife and music.

He said: ‘We have live music here most nights, sometimes it feels like there are 5,000 people in here.

’90 per cent of people come for the music. The issue would be if there are residents there.’

Ja Norman, who manages the Myddleton Arms pub in Islington, has been forced to shut its beer garden at 10pm to reduce noise for their neighbours.

He said: ‘I have heard about The Compton Arms and I feel bad for them.

‘I feel in a way it is a handful of neighbours who have got used to silence in lockdown and then the pubs open and they say it is too loud.

‘It is an old establishment. It is very, very old and it has been around for years.

‘If you are going to move into a house next door, sometimes you are going to get noise outside.’

A spokesman for London’s Mayor Sadiq Khan said that ‘the Mayor has made safeguarding and growing London’s pubs, bars and night-time economy a key priority in the London Plan – his overall planning strategy for the capital’

After The Compton Arms was threatened with closure, one social-media user said: ‘Not wealthy NIMBYs smearing an objectively perfect and historic pub.’

Another added: ‘This is a lovely pub and should be preserved. I can’t fathom people who would move here and complain that it’s acting like a pub?’

One person said: ‘You can’t just move next door to a pub that’s been the hub of a community for 200 years and try and shut it down.’

The pub was the inspiration for George Orwell’s 1964 essay ‘The Moon Under Water’ published in the Evening Standard in which he described his perfect pub.

He laid out ten points for the perfect pub including Victorian decor, barmaids knowing the customers by name and a snack counter.

Outraged Londoner’s took to social media to defend the Compton Arms many warning people not to move next to historic venues if they do not like noise

A spokesperson for the pub in Islington, north London, said: ‘I can’t begin to tell you how infuriating and frustrating these allegations are.

‘Our managers, Esther and Nikki have gone to extreme lengths for these guys, under duress, and worked their socks off to run the pub considerately and exceptionally – in spite of some more than challenging behaviour from some of the four complainants.

‘The pride these two and the rest of our team take is a joy for us as owners.

‘We are tremendously proud of them, as we are of Belly in our kitchen, and of course our loyal customers.

‘Post-Covid periods have seen a lot of pubs go through similar situations.

‘A minority get used to the quiet then decide the pub that’s been there since the 1800’s, that is an asset of community value, is now a nuisance… It makes me want to cry. We need your help.’

A spokesperson for Islington Council told MailOnline that ‘a review had been invoked by residents’ and will be heard by a council sub-committee.

The London Mayor’s office said that The Night Czar team, ‘that works to keep the capital safe, vibrant and diverse at night’, has been speaking to the Compton Arms 

Even Soho, known for its energetic nightlife, is coming under threat from complaints about noise and anti-social behaviour.

During the May elections, Labour councillor for the West End, Paul Fisher argued that Westminster Council should not grant any new alcohol licences in the area until there is a crackdown on the amount of noise.

Speaking at the West End hustings in April he said: ‘We are living in a cumulative impact area. There should be a presumption against granting new alcohol licences in cumulative impact areas. It is absolutely essential that it is enforced. At the moment it isn’t.

London pubs hit with noise concerns in 2022:

  • The Duke’s Head, in Highgate, pledged to work with neighbours following noise complaints 
  • The Gatehouse, in Highgate, had plans to extend its venue approved despite concerns  
  •  The Crown, in Bromley, addressed fears that the beer garden would be too loud
  • King William IV in Hampstead faces a licence review 
  •  Kiss the Sky in Crouch End lost its licence over noise complaints, antisocial behaviour and operating beyond permitted hours
  • The Courtyard shisha bar in Woolwich was fined £2,046 for late-night noise disturbances 
  •  The Jago, Dalston, has started a petition to protect it from having to reduce its trading hours because of noise complaints
  • The Macbeth on Hoxton Street avoided a suspension of its licence following noise complaints and ‘poor management’ concerns
  • The Broadway in Muswell Hill faced objections over noise when trying to relax its licence 
  •  Those living near Betty’s in Chiswick expressed concern over later closing times on Friday and Saturday night
  •  The Compton Arms in Islington is facing a licence review after four neighbours complained of loud noise
  •  The Sultan in South Wimbledon had a review of the licence after neighbours said its new pub benches were a nuisance 
  • The George Tavern in Stepney successfully overcame plans for new flats adjacent to its venue, that it feared would lead to more noise complaints 
  • The Dove, in Chingford, sparked fury after asking to extend its licence to 1am

A number of pubs across London have been threatened with noise closures in the last six months 

‘They are granting new alcohol licences in Soho, and I’m afraid there isn’t a need for more alcohol establishments in Soho. Last year, there were 105 applications made for licensing in the Soho area only five of those were outright rejected.

‘It’s about more than just committing resources. We need to think carefully about how we revolutionise our approach to noise, not just in Soho but across the ward.’

He also spoke about introducing a fine for pubs and restaurants that stay open too late – a policy that is already in place in areas such as Camden.

Matt Porter, 24, one of the managers at Simmons Bar Soho said: ‘I am okay with closing at midnight, but other managers want to be open for longer.

‘We get noise complaints all the time. It is just one or two people from the older generation who live nearby. They say the music is too loud.

‘It has not happened as much as it used to when the pandemic restrictions lifted first we had more of them. It is upsetting to see this happening.’

Last year, Westminster Council decided to scrap Al Fresco dining in Soho despite a number of bars and restaurants hoping it would stay in place – the policy had been introduced during the pandemic to help boost business when indoor dining was not permitted.

Since the beginning of 2022, noise complaints have hit more than 20 bars and pubs across Greater London – with even some late-night takeaways getting slammed for their noise levels.

The King William IV in Hampstead handed a petition with nearly 500 signatures to Camden earlier this month after it was threatened with a licence review over noise complaints from neighbours being disturbed when people leave the venue.

The landlord Jimmy McGrath said the issue was not the pubs fault and it had previously taken action to resolve the issue by hiring a bouncer and making musicians play with acoustic instruments rather than through amplifiers. 

Pub manager Marija Skauminaite, who has worked at the venue for seven years, told the Camden New Journal: ‘I just think it’s ridiculous. We have been here for six or seven years and literally nothing has changed in all these years.

‘The music has been the same, the opening hours have been the same and suddenly there has been a few complaints and they are trying to affect what is a big part of Hamstead High Street.’ 

Across the river in South Wimbledon, The Sultan pub had its license reviewed after a letter signed by 12 neighbours said the pub, which had six new picnic tables outside, was having a ‘negative impact on the area’.

More than 30 regulars of the pub wrote back letters of support defending the local. 

Katie Nicholls who is the CEO of the UKHospitality, which represents over 740 venues, told MailOnline the pubs and bars are currently in a ‘fragile’ state as a result of the pandemic and the ongoing cost-of-living crisis.

She said: ‘The sector is tightly regulated when it comes to noise levels and UKHospitality is a supporter of the ‘agent of change principle’ – where developers building new accommodation near long-standing licensed premises have a duty to mitigate noise in their plans, rather than existing premises being penalised.

‘The vast majority of the UK’s much-loved pubs are well-run premises at the heart of the communities they serve. With this in mind, noise issues, where they exist, should be resolved in the first instance by constructive dialogue between the parties.

‘Given current pressures on the already fragile sector, which faces soaring costs and staff shortages, we’d urge for a partnership approach to resolving any issues rather than resorting to costly and time-consuming licensing reviews.’

Londoners have become so fed-up with early closures, due to noise complaints, that they have started to question whether it is really the 24-hour city it proclaims to be.

One social media user said: ‘Ads about London: nightlife. 24-hour city. Up until sunrise. The world is on your doorstep.

‘Actual London: This pub closes at 11 pm and so does pretty much anywhere that isn’t a full-on club. There’s a bar round the corner that closes at 12 but you won’t get there in time for last orders.’

Another added: ‘Love these London nights out! But what’s with the early closing of outside bars, which, presumably, offer more protection from Covid than everyone cramming into packed indoor spaces, late at night & a little more merry?’

One said: ‘The existing early closing times in London are a continuous source of confusion for visitors from other UK cities.’

Londoners have become so fed-up with early closures, due to noise complaints, that they have started to question on social media whether it is really the 24-hour city it proclaims to be

A spokesperson for the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said: ‘Pubs are an intrinsic part of the capital’s culture and heritage and the Mayor has made safeguarding and growing London’s pubs, bars and night-time economy a key priority in the London Plan – his overall planning strategy for the capital. 

‘He is also doing all he can to protect London’s iconic pubs with City Hall’s Culture and Community Spaces at Risk team helping to provide advice and support to hundreds of venues.

‘The Mayor is clear that London’s pubs should be considerate to their neighbours, and those that are must be safeguarded by local authorities to protect London’s unique character and heritage. 

‘With the cost of living presenting fresh challenges, the Mayor also continues to call on the Government to play its part in supporting London’s pubs which have such a key role to play in both the capital’s and the country’s economic and social recovery.’

Islington Council were contacted by MailOnline for an updated statement regarding the Compton Arms. The case is due to be heard at the council’s sub-committee meeting on October 12. 

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