The Committee was reminded that over the last number of months the Council had received complaints around noise, nuisance and disturbance emanating from the late-night opening of food premises on the Lower Ormeau Road.
At its December meeting, the Committee had agreed to receive a deputation from Lower Ormeau Residents Action Group (LORAG) for a small delegation of residents to attend it’s January meeting to highlight the impact on the local neighbourhood.
Accordingly, the Chairperson invited Ms. J. Armstrong and Ms. J. Breen to address the Committee.
Ms. Armstrong provided detail about the large crowds that were gathering outside the premises in the early hours of the morning due to its late closure of 4.00 a.m. She advised that this was having a detrimental impact on her mental health as she could not sleep due to the continuous noise, and she urged the Council to try and implement an earlier closure of the facility.
Ms. Breen concurred and she advised that she had two children aged 8 and 12 who were not able to sleep due to the noise, including loud music, from the premises which was particularly bad from 1.00 a.m. – 4.00 a.m. She also referred to the noise created by the delivery drivers. She stated that in the morning there was often broken glass because of anti-social behaviour and a smell of urine from people having urinated in the street. The representative advised that, like Ms. Armstrong, both her and her children’s mental health was suffering due to a continuous lack of sleep, this was now affecting her work as she often did not get any sleep until after 4.30 a.m. She stated that on numerous occasions she had tried to speak to the owner of the food premises, but he had refused to engage with her.
The Members noted that this was a popular area for students who were congregating in and outside the premises and as a result had exacerbated the levels of disturbance and, on some occasions, this had resulted in serious anti-social behaviour.
The Committee was advised that officers had previously written to those businesses allegedly giving rise to the disturbance seeking their co-operation to reduce that disturbance. Some measures had been introduced to try to resolve the issue, such as staff positioned outside the premises, but complaints continued.
The Interim City Solicitor/Director of Legal and Civic Services advised that Article 5 of the 1985 Order permitted a council to make a closing order with respect to any premises in its district to which this Article applied, if it was satisfied that it was desirable to make such an order to prevent residents in the neighbourhood of the premises being unreasonably disturbed either by persons resorting to the premises or by the use of the premises for the supply of meals or refreshments. It applied where meals or refreshments were supplied for consumption on or off the premises.
The legislation did not apply to licensed premises during the operating times of their licence.
The Committee was advised that the hours specified in a closing order should commence not earlier than midnight and finish not later than 5.00 a.m. This could be for different hours on different days of the week.
She asked the Members to note that, if the Council proposed to make a closing order, it must serve a notice on the business giving its reasons for seeking to make the order. The business operator then would then have 28 days to make representations to the Council. They might request the opportunity to make oral representations and if they did so the Council must give them an opportunity of appearing before and of being heard by the Committee.
The Committee noted that a closure order would take effect within 21 days of the decision and lasts for 3 years, although it may be varied or revoked at any time. The business operator might appeal a closure order to the County Court, if they chose to do so the order would have no effect until the appeal had been determined.
The Chairperson thanked the representatives for their contribution, and they left the meeting.
The Committee agreed that it was minded to make a closure order and agreed that the business operator be afforded the opportunity to make representations at a future meeting of the Committee, prior to a final determination.
It was noted that the residents affected by the disturbance would also be invited to make representations at the same meeting.