Camden Council rejects plans for Chalk Farm venue aimed at ‘competitive socialising’

Camden Town Hall

A high-end “competitive socialising” venue which aimed to give people a chance to play a range of games and enjoy watching live sports was given the thumbs down by Camden Council.

Hospitality boss Johnathan Callister told the licensing committee he had ambitious plans for the Playful Pint in Chalk Farm Road.

He wanted to open the new venue on the site of his restaurant The Korean Cowgirl.

Despite the success of other branches of the restaurant in Kent he decided to close the Camden venue as it was losing money.

He told councillors: “It was not a light-hearted decision to close it, I felt physically sick the day I closed it.”

He added, after two other restaurants had previously closed there, that “the site does not work as a restaurant”.

Instead, the experienced hospitality boss, who opened the upmarket Cave hotel in Kent in 2019, researched the idea of a modern version of a venue where people could play competitive games such as darts using an interactive darts board, table football, shuffleboard, computer games and a private karaoke area.

Screens would also show sport, with an emphasis on women’s sport.

Mr Callister said the sports bar would not be “downmarket” or encourage drunk customers.

The venue is in the Camden Town cumulative impact area and the council has a policy to reject new applications unless there are “exceptional circumstances”.

Mr Callister told councillors that the emphasis would be on customers having fun and stressed: “This is not a drinking den, we are trying to encourage something high end.”

He added: “I’m a very caring and responsible employer and we always like to think we do things the right way.”

He said the restaurant staff are still employed “with a view that we would come up with a new concept”.

Kate Gemmell from TRACT (Tenants and Residents Associations Camden Town) said residents feel the venue is a “restaurant seeking to operate as a public house or bar”.

Police said they were concerned that the new venue would be “alcohol-led” with late night refreshments and wanted to see further conditions to support the aims of preventing crime and disorder in the cumulative impact zone.
These included only serving alcohol to people sitting at tables and only with a substantial table meal.

Licensing lawyer Luke Elford said table service would be offered and the venue would agree to conditions about it, with waiting service so customers could order food and drink from tables and activity areas.

“We are going to ensure substantial food is provided all day,” he explained, with staff greeting and escorting customers to their tables at busy times.

He said that “alcohol is ancillary”.

He explained that accepting the police advice about the premises “being restaurant-led would have taken us back to square one and not where we wanted to be”.

Cllr Pat Callaghan told Mr Callister: “I think you are very genuine and passionate about what you do.”

She warned: “Camden Town at night time changes. It attracts everybody and anybody, some brilliant people at night time, some not so brilliant.”

Mr Callister said: “We are not trying to open a bar and add to your heartbreak.”

He offered to change the venue’s name if that was a problem.

The licensing committee turned down the application because of the police, licensing authority and residents’ concerns and the impact on the cumulative impact area.

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