Police oppose booze licence for new Broad Street Mall cinema

Police and the council have objected to plans for a new cinema which hopes to open within weeks at Broad Street Mall.

Indie cinema company Really Local Group have been preparing to open Reading Biscuit Factory since early 2020 and say they will be ready to open within a few weeks of getting a premises licence.

But they have been left “baffled” by opposition from the police and council which could affect their ability to launch the new venue.

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Reading Borough Council’s (RBC) Licensing Applications committee will decided whether to approved the company’s licence application for the site on Thursday, June 3.

As well as a four-screen cinema at the former Argos store, the plans for the venue include a bar, café, live music, and comedy and a covered outside area.

Reading Biscuit Factory works to finish constructing the cinema last month. Photos by Really Local Group

Reading Biscuit Factory works to finish constructing the cinema last month. Photos by Really Local Group

Thames Valley Police (TVP) said the licence application failed to address concerns over public nuisance and crime and disorder in the town centre.

Officers from three different teams at the council have also objected to the licence application.

TVP licensing officer Declan Smyth said the application lacked sufficient information and would undermine the four licensing objectives, which are:

  • Prevention of crime and disorder
  • Public safety
  • Prevention of public nuisance
  • Protection of children from harm

Mr Smyth said no contact was received from Really Local Group in relation to the application to discuss concerns but Really Local Group founder Preston Benson said the police and council refused its invite to meet at the site.

Both the police and council’s licensing team say the town centre Cumulative Impact Area has not been directly addressed and only mentioned in a way as to dismiss its current relevance.

Reading Borough Council’s Cumulative Impact Assessment states that “the town centre is already under stress from too many licensed premises and that any application for a licence within that area will be refused unless the applicant can demonstrate that their proposed operation does not undermine the promotion of the licensing objectives”.

Responding, Mr Benson said: “We are a bit baffled by the whole thing. This is not a nightclub.

“For the council to take this position is confusing for us and disappointed.

“We think this could have a serious effect on our ability to open. We have been doing a lot of research and everyone is so excited for us to open.

“We have taken a space that was derelict and run down and turn it into something that is quite special, unique and very Reading. We are giving the community a stage.”

Mr Benson said the cinema is providing a premium experience with an average ticket price of £6.50 and offering alcoholic drinks is part of what allows it to do this.

His company has cinemas in London and he said crime is an issue everywhere but the cinemas do not have issues because they are family-friendly, forward looking venues.

Cinema design

Cinema design

And he has urged TVP and RBC officers to visit the venue to address so they can overcome the “misunderstandings”.

Concerns have also been raised by the Environmental Protection & Nuisance and Planning teams at the council over noise and planning permission.

RBC Senior Environmental Health Officer Rebecca Moon has requested five conditions, including: “No noise shall emanate from the premises nor vibration be transmitted through the structure of the premises which gives rise to undue disturbance to local residents”.

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She also said external doors and windows should be closed other than for coming and going when events involving amplified music or speech are taking placing and said the outdoor area should be cleared by 11pm.

But Mr Benson said: “We understand how important fresh air is and the need for people to go outside and be able to breathe, especially in our post-Covid world.”

Meanwhile, planning officers have questioned whether the cinema has planning permission for all of the proposed uses of the site other than as a cinema.

And they said a planning application would also be required if external seating is proposed after September 30 this year.

The council’s licensing team has called for the application to be withdrawn until these planning issues are resolved.

Reading Chronicle | Town Centre