Wanstead cafe faces fierce opposition to licensing application

A cafe that has been in business for 80 years has received fierce opposition after asking for permission to open in the evenings and sell alcohol.

The Bungalow Cafe in Spratt Hall Road, Wanstead, applied to Redbridge Council’s licensing committee to open until 11.30pm on weeknights, midnight on Friday and Saturday and 11pm on Sunday.

The cafe currently opens from 7am to 3pm every day except Sunday, when it is closed.

The committee met on Wednesday October 14 to discuss whether to grant the change.

Stavros Nicola, the cafe’s manager since 2011, said he is willing to do “whatever is needed to keep (the cafe) alive” after the financial hit of closing for around five months during the pandemic.

The committee received 38 objections to the plans, with those opposed insisting late-night customers could disturb residents, behave badly or create parking problems.

Objector Daniel Martin wrote that the cafe already attracts “generally loud” customers who “frequently use unacceptable language that can be heard across the surrounding streets”.

He said: “This… disturbing change would rip through the heart of our community and transform the local streets into a threatening and potentially dangerous environment.

“None of the families in the area wish for an isolated licensed premises in the centre of a residential area.

“The cafe’s large outside area would generate an incredible amount of noise if filled with customers consuming alcohol.”

Ward councillor Jo Blackman (Lab, Wanstead Village) spoke at the meeting to object, but noted she had “enjoyed (her) visits to the cafe” and hopes it “will continue to thrive”.

Speaking on behalf of residents, she said: “I’m alarmed to hear about plans for takeaway service, which were not included in the application. 

“Even at premises on the High Street, we get a lot of complaints about noise (from delivery drivers).”

She also noted there are no plans to increase parking at the cafe, which has three dedicated spaces, adding: “There’s pressure on parking all hours of the day in this area.

“I’m convinced this application should be rejected but, if approved, I believe the hours should be restricted to early evening and with conditions to restrict the use of the outdoor space.”

In his written submission to the committee, Mr Nicola warned that, if the application was rejected, the cafe could be forced to “close indefinitely”, resulting in the loss of four jobs. 

He wrote: “This business was established in 1938 and was here prior to any local residents who have now inconsiderately objected.

“We will only be serving alcohol with meals; we will not be a club or a bar or cause public nuisance.”

At the meeting, he told the committee that, during lockdown, he had “completely renovated the cafe, spending every single penny” he received from the Government.

“I felt I was contributing to the local economy and I kept four people in work,” he said, “I’m providing a service to the local community, even my neighbours who are objecting.

“My reward is a campaign against me and my business. I have had to spend hours defending this and seek legal advice, it’s stopping me from concentrating on the business.

“I understand that we are in a residential area but, at the same time, I will do my utmost to ensure that there is no public nuisance.”

The committee will issue its decision by October 21.

Victoria Munro

Local Democracy Reporter