Westminster City Council and the Metropolitan Police are worried that demand for North East-based Greggs’ famous hot savouries could lead to crime and disorder if the nation’s favourite bakers are allowed to open their shop in Leicester Square through the night.
Now the North Tyneside-headquartered company is planning a court appeal to allow it to open 24 hours a day in what is one of the capital’s nightlife hotspots. Meanwhile, it is involved in mediation with the council.
The refusal of a licence has caused public mockery in London’s newspaper, the Evening Standard and indignation on the ConservativeHome news website.
The Standard reports that Greggs was refused permission to trade hot food 24 hours a day last year after police argued that the extended opening times could lead to a wave of “crime and disorder”.
The Met told the Standard: ““It is our belief that if granted, the application could undermine the licensing objectives in relation to the prevention of crime and disorder.”
The paper reports that Greggs offered to employ security guards wearing body cameras at its Leicester Square location to ensure safety, but the request was still refused.
Westminster Council told the Standard that its licensing committee “refused to grant the application on policy grounds” because Greggs had “failed to demonstrate exceptional reasons as to why the application would not have a negative impact on the West End.”
It added: “Greggs would need to try to convince the court that their evidence provides exceptional reasons for allowing the premises to operate until 5am, despite being located in a cumulative impact zone.”
One reader’s comment on the paper’s story asked: “Seriously? Who gets mugged for a sausage roll?”
According to the Standard: “The majority of the food sold by the pastry shop, including its famous pasties, is made at industrial bakeries and then re-heated. Shops do not need a licence to sell them because they are not kept hot in store.
“However other cooked products, such as bacon baps, sausage breakfast rolls and potato wedges, as well as tea and coffee, need special permission from the local authority to be sold between 11pm and 5am.”
Not surprisingly, Greggs said customers could become “confused” if its full menu was not available to them all evening and would be more likely to cause trouble. Its appeal is expected to be heard in May, and meanwhile it is involved in mediation with the council.
Flaw in the system
Journalist Georgia L. Gilholey, writing on the ConservativeHome website, found a serious side to the issue:
“This may just be one restaurant, but it represents a fundamental flaw in our system. Namely, how businesses must first prove ‘exceptions’ in order to be permitted to operate in an already-busy area, rather than the government stepping in if there is a genuine risk to safety and life.
“It is as if the state viewed businesses as inconveniences to be granted some slim freedoms, and not engines for prosperity to be harnessed for the wellbeing of the nation and its economy.”
Greggs told Gilholy that its late-night Newcastle branch has been running smoothly. Apparently revellers in Grainger Street and Neville Street are better behaved than Westminster and the Met expect those in Leicester Square to be if their passions are aroused by the prospect of a small-hours bacon bap. Hmm.
However, it is reassuring to know that at least some of the 50 staff at Westminster Council – the most in the UK – earning over £100,000 a year, as reported by North East Bylines here this week, are spending part of their expensive time productively, devising a hot savouries policy and protecting the West End from the risks posed by Greggs’ sausage breakfast rolls and potato wedges at 5 o’clock in the morning.