Wine merchant aims to serve up measures to satisfy licensing chiefs – Brighton and Hove News

A wine merchant has applied for permission to serve drinks to customers on the premises but the council and police lodged formal objections.

Jignesh Agnihotri, who runs the Wine Barrel, in Western Road, Hove, plans to hold wine-tasting events, serving drinks no later than 9.30pm.

Mr Agnihotri, known as Jig, also aims to cater for customers who want to sample a wine before buying or just have a glass of wine or craft beer at a table inside or outside the premises.

A Brighton and Hove City Council report said: “Representations received had concerns relating to prevention of crime and disorder, cumulative impact, public safety and prevention of public nuisance.”

Sussex Police licensing officer Claire Abdelkader told a council licensing panel that the force was concerned in part because of high levels of crime in Western Road.

She told the hearing today (Wednesday 15 May) that police had logged more than 1,000 incidents over the past year within a few hundred yards of the business.

Of these incidents, 321 were recorded crimes, including 118 thefts, 93 violent offences and 42 public order offences.

She said: “This provides evidence of the real risk of the potential for crime and disorder in this area and crime types that could affect the type of business, a wine bar, that the applicant wishes to move towards.

“Western Road … has high foot traffic and vehicle movement year-round and is often patrolled as part of Operation Marble, the force’s response on a Friday and Saturday night to the night-time economy.

“Police have concerns that another venue with alcohol in the area, which is already saturated with on-licence premises, could add to the issues that Western Road and the surrounding area already face.”

Ms Abdelkader said that Sussex Police and the Wine Barrel had agreed draft licence conditions to restrict drinking to customers seated at tables, with no spirits to be consumed on the premises.

On-sales would include tasting sessions and lectures about wines, beers and ciders. If a bottle of wine was purchased for drinking on the premises then a food menu would be provided.

Licensing consultant Graham Hopkins, for the Wine Barrel, said that customers ordering wine would be offered complimentary charcuterie, with the option to order more, including cheese and bread and a wider menu from neighbouring restaurants.

Mr Hopkins said that alcohol would only be consumed on the premises between noon and 9.30pm daily, with customers served by waiting staff.

The Wine Barrel has operated in Western Road since 1992 and the current owner, 59-year-old Mr Agnihotri, has run the business since 2022, having worked in the drinks trade since 1983.

He said that he had lived in Brighton since the 1960s. He has two stores – Shakti and Red White Rose – in Ditchling Road, Brighton.

He said: “What I want to do is pass on some of the passion I have about wine and offer something unique and different in terms of wine.

“We have Waitrose up the road and at least a dozen off-licences around here and we wouldn’t survive if we weren’t unique and different.

“Sussex is home to so many vineyards, it rivals Champagne. There really is an opportunity in Brighton and Hove to have a glass or something local that’s a bit special.”

Mr Agnihotri did not want to use anything but glass for wine either inside or outside the shop but agreed to risk-assess its use.

The panel – councillors Theresa Fowler, John Hewitt and Alison Thomson – retired to decide the application. The decision should be made public in five working days.

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