Concerns have been raised that the latest plan to open a ‘restaurant’ in a town blighted by drugs and violence is merely a ‘nightclub in disguise’.
The Brent premises 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, has 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 is the second application in less than a year after the council quashed Mr Adjel’s previous attempt to open the venue until 4am everyday.
Police have called for the latest application to also be thrown out over concerns the venue will ‘slowly return to what it was in the past’. Officers suggest there has been a noticeable decrease in the number of violent incidents since its closure and claim there is no support locally for its re-opening.
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 are some fears that the plan is actually for a nightclub but is masquerading as a restaurant.
One resident called the plan a ‘nightclub in disguise’. In documents submitted to the council, they said: “The application says the property will hold up to 60-80 people but with no seating plan provided. This number seems far too high unless customers are vertical drinking.”
They added: “The licence for Vybz Bar included [a] condition [that] the total number of people permitted on the premises [should] not exceed 50. Since Vybz was a bar with some standing customers and Palm Island Lounge would be seated only, it seems impossible to accommodate 60-80.”
Another resident called it a ‘terrible idea’ to reopen the venue, which they claimed was always ‘horrifically noisey’ previously. In an objection submitted to the committee, they said: “The sound of bloating speakers coming out of the Vybz Bar was amplified and reverberated throughout the whole neighbourhood.”
The fact that the venue will be for over 18s only, with customers set to have their ID scanned on their way inside, has further fuelled suspicions it is intended to be a nightclub.
However, Mr Adjel insists it 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.
Harlesden and Kensal Green’s three councillors also want to see the latest application be refused. They have criticised the plan for being ‘incomplete and ambiguous’, whilst also raising concern with its ‘astonishing and concerning’ lack of detail.
In a document submitted to the licensing committee, one of the councillors, Matt Kelcher, said: “This isolated venue is primarily in a residential area with a retail offering. Despite it being located within the Town Centre, there is no other night-time economy within the parade of retail shops.”
He added: “Should a licence be granted, it will likely lead to a rise in anti-social behaviour, parking issues and contraventions. There is a significantly reduced policing team and as such, the resources required to manage issues arising from this night club will be greatly stretched.”
Brent Council’s alcohol and entertainment licensing sub-committee will decide on whether the plan will go ahead when the application is heard at next week’s meeting (January 31).