Booze bid by Hawick restaurant sparks objections from neighbours

A restaurant owner has hit back at objectors wanting to thwart his efforts to get an alcohol licence.

Wednesday, 16th September 2020, 1:47 pm
Updated Wednesday, 16th September 2020, 2:19 pm
Raj Kumar, owner of the Punjabi Grill in Hawick.

The Punjabi Grill in Hawick’s High Street opened in July after going through a lengthy planning application process to deal with concerns raised by its immediate neighbours about noise disturbance and the potential for food smells to reach their properties. 

The owner of the restaurant, Raj Kumar, was able to convince Scottish Borders Council planners that the installation of a ventilation system, coupled with reduced opening hours, would mitigate any complaints.

Currently, it is open from 5pm to 10pm Tuesday to Sunday, but Mr Kumar has now applied to the council’s licensing board for permission to sell alcohol from 11am to midnight from Sunday to Wednesday and from 11am to 1am Thursday to Saturday.

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However, he says he has no intention of extending his opening hours, with the hours stated on the alcohol licence he seeks being just a formality. 

Despite that, his application has sparked two objections from immediate neighbours, again concerned about smells and disturbance. 

One objector, whose name has been redacted by the council, wrote: “The main issues at present are smell entering our garden and rubbish.

“The property has one way in and one way out, which is under our bedroom and living room window, in very close proximity.

“This, we feel, would increase the noise from customers entering and leaving and also issues with customers smoking under our window causing noise pollution and rubbish.”

A second objector wrote: “I feel I shouldn’t have to wait six nights a week till he closes to get some sleep. 

“Also, people gather underneath us for cigarettes and chat between meals.

“We are already dealing with cigarette ends gathering at our door due to customer and staff cigarette breaks. 

“We aren’t trying to stop business, but we are worried we’re going to have more issues to deal with.

“The main concern is if they serve food later we’re going to get customers fuelled with alcohol, and we are going to get all the noise of them leaving late on.”

The application for an alcohol licence is set to be heard at a meeting of the board this Friday, September 18. 

Speaking ahead of that meeting, Mr Kumar said: “We’ve been working very, very closely with the residents as we’re now a part of the community here.

“In all fairness, we’ve been working with the local authorities, and there’s no evidence that the odours are related to our operations.

“We’ve been working with environmental health too, and they’ve been very positive towards us.

“It is on a high street in all fairness. There’s traffic 24 hours a day, and in terms of customers coming and going, they come in ones and twos, so there’s no excessive noise. 

“We’re always vigilant with our customers, and when entering, we make sure they don’t have to wait for their food, as they’re given time slots due to coronavirus distancing guidelines. 

“I think what’s happening is that because we’re new, it’s quite convenient to blame the problems with the high street on us.

“We take hygiene and cleanliness very seriously and we clean the front of our premises every day. 

“People are using the allocated parking spaces which have been designated by the council. 

“We don’t have more than three to four people waiting on the premises at any one time. 

“When we submitted the planning application, we went through this process where we answered all the questions and satisfied all the requirements. 

“It’s important to us that we satisfy all those requirements, but also we’ve been working closely with a lot of the residents of the high street, a lot of whom come in for food regularly.”