An empty North London club is set to re-open as a restaurant after getting approval from the council. An application for an alcohol licence was given the go-ahead after asking for a second time. The Brent venue has been shut since 2022 when it was a late-night bar after the Metropolitan Police highlighted its ‘continuous problems’ with crime and disorder.
Owner of Palm Island Lounge, Kingsley Adjel, applied for a licence to play music and serve alcohol until midnight at the site of the former bar in the residential area of Craven Park Road, Harlesden. It was the second application in less than a year after the council quashed Mr Adjel’s previous attempt to open the venue until 4am every day.
The application was heard at a recent meeting of Brent Council’s entertainment and alcohol licensing sub-committee (31 January), where councillors waived through the plan. In the end, they decided that opening a family restaurant wouldn’t cause the same problems the club did and gave the young business owner the opportunity to demonstrate that.
Some Harlesden residents had been fighting back against the application. They said they were ‘really worried’ about people dining in the garden that backs directly onto neighbours’ gardens, describing it as like having a ‘floodlit garden’ right behind their property.
Formerly the home of Vybz Bar, the premises had its licence revoked in August 2021 after the police obtained a closure order due to its persistent problems with crime and violence. An application last year to open the venue until 4am was refused amidst concerns it would ‘undo all of the hard work’ officers had done restoring order in the area.
Although the latest application is to open a restaurant that only serves alcohol until 11.30pm midweek and 12pm on the weekends, there were some fears that the plan is actually for a nightclub but is masquerading as a restaurant, meaning the previous problems will return.
One resident told the committee that they were ‘not against the idea’ of a new business opening at the premises in general, but are concerned about what happened previously and think it would be a mistake to allow the licence if it included the garden.
Another resident spoke of the ‘real and genuine torture’ that locals still feel from the premises’ Vybz days, which they described as like having an ‘open-air nightclub in your garden every weekend’. They explained that they would support the opening of an indoor restaurant but said opening up the garden would be a ‘seriously bad idea’.
Mr Adjel’s solicitor said it was ‘saddening’ to hear that residents’ anxieties have been placed on his client, who he claims had nothing to do with Vybz bar. He told the committee that it was ‘understandable people are concerned’, considering the premises’ history, but urged councillors to ‘give [Mr Adjel] a chance to demonstrate his credentials.
Mr Adjel insists the premises will operate as a restaurant and claims, although a risk assessment recommended a capacity of 80, the number and layout of tables and chairs ‘hasn’t fully been determined yet’.
Mr Adjel also states people standing up drinking will not be allowed and alcohol will only be able to be sold with ‘a substantial meal’ and whilst seated. Whilst a ‘substantial meal’ is not defined, the food is described as a blend of West African and Mediterranean cuisine.
Both the police and licensing officers had originally submitted representations against the application, however, each of them withdrew their opposition after Mr Adjel agreed to several conditions. These include not emptying glasses in the outside bin between 10pm and 8am, the garden only being open to customers until 8pm, and no noise or vibration being detectable to the neighbours.
This was queried by one of the residents who said it was ‘ridiculous’ to suggest that it was possible for customers to use the garden and the neighbours not be able to hear. Mr Adjel’s solicitor hit back saying if his client didn’t act on any noise complaints then the consequences were ‘pretty serious’ and he could lose his licence.
Ultimately, the committee decided that the offering was ‘entirely different’ to Vybz bar and approved the plan. In a statement it said there were no concerns about noise potentially coming from the interior of the premises and banning the use of the garden altogether would ‘go too far’.
Conditions of the licence include no more than ten customers can be seated in the garden at any one time, there is to be no outdoor heating, only providing alcohol alongside a meal, and Mr Adjel must provide residents with a contact number in case they have any complaints.