Seven Dials wine merchant looks set to extend opening hours

Seven Cellers in Dyke Road, Brighton
Seven Cellers in Dyke Road, Brighton

A high-end wine and beer merchant looks likely to get a new licence after positive noises from councillors.

Louise Oliver, owner of the Seven Cellars off-licence in Dyke Road, Brighton, presented her case to sell single cans of craft beer and stay open for an extra two hours each night.

Mrs Oliver told the panel at Hove Town Hall on Tuesday (October 30) how she studied wine at Plumpton College and now teaches students there about wine importing.

Some of the shop staff are recruited from the student body or go on to take degree courses in wine at the specialist college.

She said: “Drinking wine is a hobby, not about getting drunk at all. We import but are also developing export links across Europe.

“This is fantastic for local wine makers and brewers who have new markets to go to.”

Mrs Oliver told the panel that she wanted to open later as many of her customers were eating at nearby restaurants until 10pm, with a bring-your-own wine policy.

She said that she sold wines to complement Thai and Vietnamese food.

But the off-licence is within Brighton and Hove City Council’s ‘special stress area’ where licensing rules are tighter because of concerns about crime and anti-social behaviour.

Neither Sussex Police nor the council’s licensing department opposed her request to sell single cans of craft beer.

A new condition covered sales of all craft, premium and specialist beers and ciders in any single container.

Councillors Jackie O’Quinn and Lynda Hyde said that they were impressed with Mrs Oliver’s presentation and understood her products were not aimed at binge drinkers or people ‘pre-loading’ before a night of clubbing.

When the original licence was granted in 2015, the limit on opening times in the special stress area was 8pm.

Sussex Police licensing officer Hannah Staplehurst told the panel that there were only ‘a handful’ of alcohol-related crimes in the Seven Dials area.

A shoplifting incident was reported by Mrs Oliver at the Seven Cellars shop within the past year, which was described as a responsible action on her part as the owner.

Sussex Police objected because the change in hours was against policy – as did the council’s licensing team.

Council licensing officer Donna Lynsdale said: “The premises are very different to other off licences in the area. It has selective makes and is very well run.”

Councillor Hyde, a Conservative, said: “There are some off-licences in the area with 24-hour facilities.

“With that in mind, I find it difficult to understand why two additional hours in this application will make so much difference.”

Councillor O’Quinn, a Labour who represents the neighbouring Goldsmid ward, and who chaired the licensing panel, suggested later opening hours on Fridays and Saturdays only.

She said: “I know there is a demand for that sort of wine and it is popular with people who live around there.

“I understand the applicant and the police feel it is well run but I have some concern about hours.”

After discussions with Mrs Oliver, a compromise of 10pm closing for Thursdays to Saturdays was agreed.

The panel did not reach a decision at the meeting but said that it would announce its verdict within seven working days.

Sarah Booker-Lewis is the Local Democracy Reporter for Brighton & Hove.