Restaurant backtracks on beauty spot venue’s proposed late opening hours in bid to allay fears

A bar and restaurant firm has backtracked on its initial plans to extend the opening hours of a venue at a Birmingham beauty spot beyond midnight as it seeks to allay fears raised in a number of objections from residents. Mitchells & Butlers, headquartered in Birmingham, had submitted plans to Birmingham City Council’s licensing department to extend the opening hours of its new Browns Brasserie, which is set to replace the longstanding Toby Carvery in Sutton Park in Sutton Coldfield.

Its initial application proposed opening from 9am to midnight from Sunday to Wednesday and from 9am to 1am from Thursday to Saturday ‘on and off the premises’. The licencing application also requested permission for ‘live music and performances of dance’ to be allowed over those same extended hours.

And for ‘late night refreshments’ from 11pm to 12 midnight, Sunday to Wednesdays and from 11pm to 1am Thursdays to Saturdays. The premises were also to remain open to the public for 24 hours Monday to Sunday.

Read more: ‘Absolute tragedy’ – Toby Carvery customers gutted over restaurant closure

‘I don’t see why an opening hours exception should be made for Browns’

But the proposals received a backlash from local residents, the town and city councillor for the area and from Sutton Civic Society. Cllr David Pears (Sutton Trinity, Cons.) spoke at the licensing sub-committee A meeting on Monday (May 13). He raised objections to the Browns Brasserie opening until midnight, saying other venues in the park closed at 11pm.

He said the site was in a ‘medieval deer park rather than an urban town centre’. He said: “It’s a unique environment given to Sutton Coldfield in 1528 by Henry VIII and is a Site of Special Scientific Interest covering 2,400 acres, which includes some rare and protected species.

“Not far from the establishment can be found owls, bats, badgers and just behind the establishment is a donkey sanctuary.” He referenced Meadow Platt – a field just inside the park and Plants Brook – a stream that runs from the park into the town. He said houses by Meadow Platt pick up residual noise from there and the pub.”

He said the issue was with ‘revellers’ leaving the pub leaving glasses and bottles in Plants Brook and Meadow Platt and on those coming in and out of the park he said it was ‘vital between park closing hours and Browns’ closing hours traffic coming into and out of the park is strictly controlled and only for those using the park. He urged for the 11pm alcohol sales limit to be maintained.

Toby Carvery Sutton Park sign at entrance
The Toby Carvery in Sutton Park is set to be turned into Mitchells and Butlers ‘premium’ restaurant brand – Browns Brasserie

While resident Caroline Hick speaking at the meeting said she was a resident of Donavan Drive and her house overlooks the Toby Carvery. She said she had not been aware of the existing times the Toby Carvery was allowed to open and did not want to challenge those.

She said her issue was not with the brand or what goes on inside the premises. It’s the associated antisocial behaviour when the gates are open. And that remains ‘whatever the licensing hours are’

Mrs Hick asked for clarification that the external drinking area would close at 11pm not midnight as requested, which was confirmed by Andrew Grimsley, a solicitor for Mitchells and Butlers. But then withdrew her and her husband’s objection, thanking Mitchells and Butlers for listing to concerns.

She said: “Personally, we very much welcome the change of brand at the Toby Carvery to the much more upmarket brand of Browns and we very much hope it will be a success and we anticipate becoming fairly regular users.”

Read more: Plan to close longstanding venue and replace it with new restaurant

‘It’s not a place which to be associated with the likes of night clubs”

Other residents had written objections and were concerned about noise ‘due to the extended hours, especially from loud live music and people’s behaviour when drinking and leaving the venue’. They said there was already an issue with quad bikes – which they feared would increase with an increase in opening hours.

One resident in Catherine Drive said: “The park is a National Nature Reserve and not a place which should be associated with the likes of central Birmingham night clubs.” While another objector said: “We welcome Browns, but not being kept awake after 12 midnight, listening to live music and all the noise that goes with it.”

Sutton Coldfield Civic Society said: “We do not feel the extension of opening hours applied for is appropriate for the area in which the Toby Carvery is located. Sutton Park is a National Nature Reserve, a Site of Special Scientific Interest and mostly a Scheduled Ancient Monument.

“The sensitivities of such a location cannot be over emphasised. With the Town Gate having to be left open for longer at night there could be increased incidents of unsocial activity, vandalism and crime within the Park as a consequence. Also there would be a likely increase of drinkers straying outside the licenced area into the park. We hope that you will refuse the application.”

Browns will be a ‘notch or two above the Toby Carvery’

At the hearing the applicant’s solicitor, Mr Grimsey, said the licensing hours request had been altered to ask for permission to sell alcohol from 9am to 11pm Sunday to Wednesday, and from 9am to midnight Thursday to Saturday, not 1am. In essence a request to extend the opening time by an hour in the night time from Thursday to Saturday and by half-an-hour on Sundays. The same hours were requested for the function room too – for birthdays and weddings – but were not expected to be every week.

He said Browns was the firm’s ‘premium restaurant brand’ which would be ‘a notch or two above the Toby Carvery’. He said: “Local residents can be frightened there will be bands playing all sorts of stuff in the middle of the week and that’s not the case at all.”

Dave Lewis, operations director for the Browns brand said there are 25 Browns around the country, the first opened in Brighton in 1972. It’s an all day brasserie catering for breakfasts, brunch, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner, selling seasonal fresh food. ‘A premium offering’. As well as ‘handcrafted cocktails’. And guests are served at the restaurant and bar.

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The new-look venue would have a grand piano brought in with live pianists playing ‘one or two sessions per week’ at ‘background music level’. And music would be at background level at other times – also described as being at ‘conversational level’. “There would be no music outside at all,” Mr Grimsey added.

He said the firm already employs a security guard to monitor behaviour from 8pm at Town Gate and who shuts the gate at 2am. He said the venue had had ‘no complaints’, so was not aware of any anti-social behaviour.

While Mr Lewis said reductions had been made to the lighting scheme to lessen the impact on the wildlife. He also did say bats had been found roosting at the Toby Carvery’s roof and it was working with the city council on that. Mr Grimsey added: “The last thing we want is loud music to be like a Birmingham nightclub or quad bike riders. As good neighbours we will do our absolute best to contribute to the community.”

Cllr Philip Davis, chairman of the committee, said the decision on the application would be given in five working days.

Birmingham Live – Sutton Park