Noise row between Murderers pub landlord and rum bar leaving venues 'at risk', owner warns
PUBLISHED: 10:05 11 April 2019 | UPDATED: 13:15 11 April 2019
Copyright Archant Norfolk 2015
A looming licence review at a Norwich bar has seen a rush of support from the city's music community - and prompted its owner to accuse a pub landlord of "having your cake and eating it too".
In February, a licence review was triggered over Bermuda Bob’s Rum Shack, on Timberhill, after noise complaints were made by Phil Cutter, who runs the Murderers pub opposite.
Mr Cutter said the concerns were raised as a resident, rather than a business owner, with his family sometimes unable to sleep at night.
Brad Baxter, who runs Bermuda Bob’s, as well as Gonzo’s Team Room on London Street, said he and brother Mike had taken measures to limit the noise, including installing new sound treatment and offering to pay for more at the pub.
The licence review, submitted by a Norwich City Council environmental health officer, is due to be heard by the council’s licensing sub-committee next week.
It has already seen messages of support lodged for Bermuda Bob’s, which opened last October, including from other Norwich venues.
In papers published ahead of the meeting, Mr Cutter said his family moved back into the flat above the pub last March after 13 years living elsewhere
“I personally have worked constantly at the Gardeners since 1987, and have seen, worked with and supported the various operations that have been incumbents of 7a Timberhill in that period,” he said. “While I appreciate that this venue has a later licence, the previous operators have not impacted on residents.”
He said he did not want to see the bar close, but that not being able to sleep had caused a “great deal of distress”, with his son, 15, missing days at school.
In her letter, his wife Sherie Cutter said she had become “very anxious” and “started suffering panic attacks” since their issues began.
But Mr Baxter said they had done what they could - buying door seals, building a secondary door into the venue and offering to install sound-proofing at the pub.
He admitted that, after being told to block an air vent to stop sound escape, the bar had needed to slightly open their door during three busy events to let heat escape, but said they had looked into installing air conditioning.
But, with the review ongoing, he said money should be spent on solving the problem, rather than on lawyers, and said Mr Cutter was aware it was a late night venue, accusing him of “having your cake and eating it too”.
Mr Baxter said: “A licence review not only puts Bermuda Bob’s at risk, with over £100,000 invested, it puts Gonzo’s Tea Room and the 60 people or so we employ in Norwich at risk. I know that some on the council may see this as just some bar, but I hope you see we don’t operate like many others, we’re not a drinking hole.”
He said they hoped to mirror community spaces such as the Playhouse and the Arts Centre.
A representation from Norfolk police said a member of its licensing team had visited the pub on Saturday, December 15 at 2am, and found “no excessive noise from the venue or from patrons in the street”.
Since last October, police said they had received one call linked to the venue, involving a man refusing to leave, and two reports of people leaving the bar drunk.
Lara Emerson, part of the planning department at Norwich City Council, said in the papers there were concerns over the planning permission at the venue, and said an application may be needed to regularise its current use, which could lead to its hours being restricted.
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The history of the building
In his representation, Mr Cutter laid out the history of the small venue.
• It was once the Hole in the Wall pub, which held a members club licence, but closed in 1990.
• It then stayed closed for the better part of a decade.
• In 2000 it was reopened by Jeremy Thompson as Norwich’s first lap dancing venue, The Devil’s Advocate, which at the time attracted criticism from the church community.
• It was later opened as a pole dancing venue, the Fallen Angels, but closed shortly after.
• In 2016, the space became the home of rock bar the Owl Sanctuary, which was forced to relocate after its previous base, on Cattle Market Street, was bought amid redevelopment plans.
• But the business struggled to stay afloat, and in August last year the Baxter brothers bought the venue.
• In October last year, Bermuda Bob’s Rum Shack and Hi-Fi opened.
Letters of support
The licence review saw a wave of reaction, with letters and emails sent to the council.
Twenty-four letters have been published in support of Bermuda Bob’s, with comments praising its safe atmosphere, unique offer and suitability for older music fans.
One letter was published in objection to the venue from a nearby resident, who cited anti-social behaviour among their concerns.
A handful of messages were sent from local businesses. They included:
• Sarah Dempsey, live events manager at Open Youth Trust, who described it as a “significant asset for emerging and existing local talent in Norwich”.
• Dan Foden, centre manager at Access Creative College, who said it was “vital to both the local music scene and our students”.
• Scott McBride, general manager at St Giles House Hotel in Norwich, said “there can be no disputing their positive contribution to the local economy”.
• Hannah Dingle, of Black Shuck Creative, which runs a drag and queer cabaret show at the bar. She said it was the “only safe space of its kind in Norfolk for so many people”.