Chelmsford gin bar comments prove Islamphobia concerns are real, say objectors

A gin bar and distillery has been given a licence despite concerns from members of a neighbouring mosque that worshippers will experience increased Islamophobia.

Known formerly as the Farm Shop Café and then later Pause at 13 Moulsham Street, the venue is set to become a bar and shop on the ground floor, a gin distillery on the first floor and a gin school on the second floor.

There will be outdoor pavement seating to both the front and side of the building, with removable seating area barriers.

It means The Only Way is Gin can sell alcohol from midday until 11pm between Monday to Wednesday, until midnight on Thursdays and Fridays, until 2am on Saturdays and 11pm on Sundays.

But objectors claim the bar could lead to an increased risk of drink–fuelled Islamophobia.

They add that comments which followed a previous story on the fear from Chelmsford’s Muslim community prove the undercurrents of anti-Muslim sentiment that exists and which could lead to Islamophobic comments or actions.

Ayman Syed, who has been secretary of the mosque for ten years, told the licensing committee last week: “Where I do have an issue is the potential abuse they might receive, the wording a customer might say while the children or the parents go by.

“When you start looking at Muslim children it is much more targeted where it is based around comments where people talk about being a terrorist, a bomber and these snide comments will put children off from coming and put parents off from bringing their children.

“It is something they face in school and we fear it is something they might face with a new neighbour next door.”

He added that comments such as “a British soldier was butchered by members of your cult, you keep on you Islamists there are massive street movements created that will make the EDL look like a choirboy” were “just commentary but it gives you a flavour of what we have to deal with”.

But the committee also heard that the Licensing Act was not concerned with religious or moral aspects.

Matt Bell, the agent for The Only Way is Gin, said that the bar was keen to be a good neighbour to the mosque and would work to minimise the amount of noise emanating from the premises or activities outside.

He said: “We acknowledge wholly there is a risk that patrons particularly disinhibited through the consumption of alcohol might make noise through raised voices, offensive language or general but unacceptable high spirits outside the premises and smokers present a particular risk.

“If that happens we will talk to people, if they do not stop it they will be barred.”

A statement from the licensing committee as part of its reasoning in permitting the licence said: “The committee accepted that there had been reported incidents of Islamophobia and antipathy towards members of the Muslim faith/mosques in this country. Incidents of this nature were, of course, abhorrent and to be deplored and the committee’s full sympathy went out to anyone who experienced such behaviour.

“In determining this particular application, however, the committee had to focus primarily on the use/proposed use of application premises and the immediate locality. The committee was not satisfied that there was evidence to indicate that (if the application were granted and with the requisite conditions in place) some patrons of the business might engage in verbal abuse or other anti-social/unlawful behaviour towards members of the Muslim community attending the mosque.”


Piers Meyler

Local Democracy Reporter