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Friday 6th January, 2006

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‘It’s a conservation area not a honky-tonk arena’

Neighbour’s plea as upmarket bar bids for 1am weekend closing

Objectors Dee Townsend, with children Lara, 3, and Felix, 7, Donald Hill and Kevin Shields

A SWISH Hampstead bar is on a collision course with its neighbours over plans for late-night drinking.
Room 68 in Heath Street – formerly the China Dream restaurant and, before that, the Horse and Groom pub – wants to open until 1am on Fridays and Saturdays, and midnight the rest of the week.
But worried neighbours view the proposals as an attempt to turn a venue that was once a restaurant into a loud, late-opening music bar.
A flood of protest letters to the Town Hall has included objections from residents’ group the Heath and Hampstead Society and Flask Walk Association,
Philosophy teacher Donald Hill, who has lived in nearby Mansfield Place for nearly 30 years, said: “This is a conservation area – believe it or not – not a honky-tonk arena for idiots. The adjacent footpaths, Streatley Place and even Mansfield Place off it, already serve as convenient places for vomiting, urinating and general littering, especially on Saturday night.”
The bar is thought to be a favourite with Hampstead’s resident celebrities seeking a night free from paparazzi and gossip columnists.
According to objectors, one event at the bar last year was a “denim party” with a strict guest list entry system.
Objecting to the proposed new opening hours, David Loewi, who lives in Back Lane, has told the Town Hall: “I believe the variations are likely to adversely impact on my private amenity, disturbing my quiet enjoyment of my home and keeping me awake until the early hours of the morning.”
He added: “There has been an ongoing problem with noise and disturbance coming from Room 68 in the past, people leaving late, shouting to one another or trying to hail taxis.”
Resident Bobby de Joia, who lives in Streatley Place, said: “As I am already disturbed late at night by boisterous foot traffic, it is difficult to imagine how much worse it is likely to be with extended hours.”
Another near-neighbour Kevin Shields added: “As a musician I really object to being forced to listen to music I don’t like while someone else makes money. The worst are Dido remixes.
“It’s a classic case of they don’t give a damn. When I built a studio in Camden I spent £70,000 getting it soundproofed. They pump their music out at 120 decibels.”
Police have raised concerns and in a letter to councillors Sergeant Bob Dear has warned: “The terminal hours requested are both excessive and inappropriate.”
Room 68 manager Danny Gates said: “We’re totally different, we’re going for exclusive members – not kid clientele. We’re here for the community, not to cause a scene. We just want to provide that extra drink.
“We don’t allow entry after 11pm. If we get live or amplified music like a DJ it will be once in a blue moon – Christmas, New Year, Valentine’s Day, or if we hire a room out to private parties they might want a DJ. But that will be less than once a month.”
In his application for later hours, bar owner Antonio Motisi added: “We will liaise with members of the residents’ association to ensure our clients do not cause any nuisance. We are fully aware of our neighbours and respect their need to work and sleep. After closing time, the immediate area is checked for litter that may cause a nuisance.”
Councillors are expected to hear from the pub and objectors at tomorrow’s (Friday’s) meeting before making a final decision on the later hours bid.

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