Gareth Bale has won permission to open an indoor adventure golf centre in Bristol city centre despite more than 100 residents’ objections.
Councillors granted a premises licence for Par 59, which will open next to Lane 7 in Harbourside this autumn, after the football superstar’s business venture scaled back the hours following police concerns. Neighbours argued the proposed venue was a “bar” and should not be allowed because of its location in the city centre cumulative impact area (CIA) where alcohol-led late-night establishments are at “saturation point”, and that it would increase antisocial behaviour and noise.
But Bristol City Council’s licensing sub-committee granted the application by True Swing Bristol, a company formed by the Wales captain and three business partners in January, after ruling that the venue was not primarily a drinking hole but instead a place for holing putts. Real Madrid winger Bale was referred to several times but not named once during the hearing at City Hall on Thursday (April 21), which was attended by the firm’s other three directors James Humphrys, Nicholas Saunders and Peter Cro.
Their barrister Roy Light said: “One of the directors who isn’t here today is a keen golfer, a well-known footballer and a non-drinker and he wanted to try to promote places where people could come where drinking wasn’t the main thing when you went out for an evening.”
Representations from the council’s environmental health and pollution control were withdrawn before the meeting after conditions were agreed. True Swing, which opened its first Par 59 outlet in Cardiff last month, originally applied to open in Millennium Promenade in Bristol until 1.30am from Thursday to Saturday and 12.30am on other nights, with the bar closing 30 minutes earlier.
It agreed with the police to reduce this by an hour, and at the hearing it accepted a request from residents to treat Thursday as a weeknight rather than the weekend. Hotwells & Harbourside ward Cllr Alex Hartley told the panel: “The business that True Swing wants to operate is not purely a golf entertainment space but another late-night drinking venue in an area which is already at saturation. The original plans had a clear focus on golf but it’s now a side attraction.
“This is a densely populated residential area with hundreds of flats. It is already suffering a very large amount of antisocial behaviour, and the opening of a new bar will increase this.”
One neighbour said Par 59 in Cardiff described itself online as a “premium bar experience” and that because bars were clearly “alcohol-led”, this must trigger the Bristol city centre CIA policy that would presume the application’s refusal without good reason.
Rosemary Heald, who lives at nearby Balmoral House, said: “The application hinges on whether it’s a late-night, alcohol-led drinking establishment. The applicants’ legal adviser has painted a picture of people having a jolly time playing golf but there are up to 250 people at the venue not on the golf course at any time because only 96 can potentially play at once.
“That is a lot fewer people playing golf than sitting around drinking and eating. You should refuse this application completely under the CIA because it has not been proven that this venue will not make matters worse.”
Waverley House apartments leaseholder Bernice Gallop said an elderly neighbour could no longer go to the theatre because of the abuse received from late-night revellers on her way home in Harbourside and that the area was blighted by crime.
But Mr Light said: “These premises are not an alcohol-led bar, they are not clubs. They are primarily an indoor adventure golf centre.”
The barrister said the reduced hours also meant Par 59, which will have a capacity of 350 people, was not a late-night venue, so the CIA policy did not apply. He said: “The strength of local feeling is recognised by the applicants. They are confident these premises can run successfully without causing any problems to residents or increasing issues in the area and will be a positive addition to the centre of Bristol.”
Councillors heard there had been no issues or police attendance at Par 59 in Cardiff, whose income came primarily from mini-golf, with food and drink subsidiary to that main activity.
Avon & Somerset Police licensing officer Sarah Bellamy said: “Since they have reduced their hours and included conditions, the police are not so concerned. The area is a hotspot for antisocial behaviour. My main concern was the hours and the outside area which the applicants have addressed.”
Announcing the decision, sub-committee chairman Cllr Steve Pearce said: “The applicants have clearly listened to and addressed the concerns of residents and the responsible authorities. Given that the police are now satisfied with the significantly scaled-down application, and the licensing hours will not go beyond midnight, we do not consider that the policy is triggered.
“We have taken into account the nature and style of the premises which will operate primarily as an indoor adventure golf centre. In a mixed-use area this strikes a fair balance between the commercial aspirations of the applicant and the concerns raised by local residents.”