Historic pub wins battle over beer garden – but there’s a catch

Good news for the Red Lion in Withington – kind of

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A historic pub in south Manchester has won a battle over its beer garden – but the brewery behind the Grade-II listed building has not got everything it wanted in its new licence. The Red Lion in Withington will be allowed to serve alcohol from a bar behind the building despite objections from neighbours.

The pub in Wilmslow Road, which reopened last year after a £1m revamp, has a beer garden already and, according to its new owners JW Lees, it was used for five years before the Middleton-based brewery took it over from Marston’s. However, although alcohol could be consumed outside it could not be sold there, creating a ‘bottleneck’ when customers come inside to order drinks.

Brewery boss Jacqui Collier said: “When the weather is hot, everyone’s outside in the garden, so everybody’s trying to come from the garden, inside to the bar which creates a bottleneck. It makes it really difficult for people to get served.”

The Red Lion in Withington. The Red Lion in Withington.
The Red Lion in Withington.

At a licensing hearing on Monday (July 31), the brewery said the clientele at the pub which dates back more than 200 years has changed ‘significantly’ since reopening. Describing itself as a ‘quality local’ with ‘great’ beer and food, they said sports channels were removed with the aim of attracting more families.

Nevertheless, neighbours of the pub raised concerns about the beer garden bar attracting ‘rowdy customers’. They complained that they ‘already suffer from excessive noise’ when the beer garden is open during good weather.

Also objecting to the application, Didsbury West councillor John Leech said that if the outdoor bar licence is granted, it should stop serving alcohol by 9.30pm and the beer garden should be shut by 10pm. He also called on the licensing panel to place restrictions on where the outdoor bar can be set up.

Speaking at the town hall hearing, the Lib Dem councillor raised concerns about a bar being located on the former bowling green, nearer to residential properties. Representatives of the brewery said the best spot for the outdoor bar would be near the pub building as it needs access to the electricity supply.

They said the outdoor bar would stop serving customers at 10pm and the beer garden would shut at 11pm, one hour before its current closing time – although customers could continue using the smoking area behind the pub. But the brewery’s bosses said they would prefer not to restrict the location of the bar.

Councillors on the panel approved the premises licence variation, but the licensable area was cut in size. This means customers can still consume alcohol anywhere in the beer garden, but the location of the bar is limited.

Labour councillor Paul Andrews who chaired the licensing panel said: “We’ve decided to reduce the licensable area to not include the grassed area at the back of the pub – so the bar can be at the back of the building.”