Bar and restaurant chain The Alchemist has abandoned plans to open in York after councillors said it could only open if drinks were always served with food.
The company had applied for an alcohol licence for The Coach House building in Nessgate, formerly home to Thomas Cook and the Royal Bank of Scotland.
The council granted a licence following a hearing, but the Helmsley Group, which owns the building, confirmed that the conditions attached – which also included a table service only rule – meant that it was not a viable prospect for The Alchemist.
Edward Harrowsmith, director at Helmsley, said they were “extremely disappointed” with the licensing committee’s decision.
The street is in the red area of City of York Council’s cumulative impact zone – an area identified as being under the most stress from crime, disorder and public nuisance.
North Yorkshire Police (NYP) and the council’s own licensing team said they feared the venue could add to alcohol-related problems seen in the busy city centre location.
NYP licensing officer Kim Hollis told councillors: “The policy does tell us that the venue should be predominantly food-led.
“The granting of the licence at this point would still be likely to undermine the licensing objectives – prevention of crime and disorder, prevention of public nuisance and public safety.”
The council’s senior licensing officer Helen Sefton said she had concerns “associated with bringing a brand new, and I’m sure popular, bar and restaurant to a very busy and narrow junction that has little scope for customers arriving, leaving and smoking.”
During the licensing committee meeting, Rebecca Ingram, representing The Alchemist, said that while food would be a “very significant element”, they could not agree to being a “food-led establishment” as their venues operated as cocktail bar and restaurant hybrids and needed flexibility.
The Alchemist, which has more than 20 venues in cities across the country, said they wanted to invest £1.8 million in the empty building.
Mr Harrowsmith said the establishment would have “attracted an affluent clientele to the area and brought a fantastic and much needed new brand and offer to the city centre.”
He added: “The operator confirmed that although it operates substantially as a restaurant, without the ability for its customers to be able to purchase drinks at the bar without a meal it was not viable for it to proceed with the venture.
“We accept York does not want any more ‘drinking warehouses’, which is why a huge amount of work went into identifying and working with an operator of a quality that this prominent corner of York demands, focussed on both a quality food and drink offer.
“Despite a number of other new venues in York being granted full licensing in recent times it is disheartening to know this building will remain a blight in the city centre whilst we go back to square one, despite finding an operator that would have been a fantastic fit for this location.”