License Review for Mechu on Summer Row

As a result of complaints from several residents of Islington Gates on Fleet Street, a license review is underway for Mechu on Summer Row on the grounds of "Public Nuisance". Mechu currently has a 4am license.

"Reason: The club causes a public nusiance in the form of excessive and unnecessary incessant noise from loud amplified music, taxi horns sounding, and noise from patrons leaving the club"

Mechu on Summer Row
Mechu with Islington Gates in the background

Local residents in the Islington Gates development, particularly those in Block A closest to Summer Row, are regularly disturbed at "kicking-out time" by groups of drunken folk singing and screaming whilst waiting for taxis. On occasion these taxis park illegally and tout for business, clogging up the road and creating more noise (honking). This video shot by a resident a few months ago illustrates the issue:

A few months ago the Council held meetings with Mechu, who offered to use one of their employees as an unofficial taxi marshall taking bookings and attempting to stop illegal touting. There was some initial success although the problem seems to have persisted. The Council's licensing officers also pay regular visits to Summer Row which clears up the problem while they're there, but when they're not visible the problem returns.

The taxi issue is not solely down to Mechu of course, with Bluu, Apres and the Shakespeare all on the same strip. So to use taxi noise as a driver for a license review is ropey at best. I would assume the license review will concentrate on the noise from the club and any public order issues caused by patrons leaving the venue, rather than the noise from the taxis.

It also raises the question of how responsible a venue should be for its customers once they have left the premises? If a group of intoxicated ladies stay outside the venue for half-an-hour shouting for cabs or into their phones, who's responsibility is that?

Those eagle-eyed amongst you will note my support for The Rainbow in their battle against a Noise Abatement Order brought on by one resident of the Abacus Apartments in Digbeth. With the Rainbow situation, there is one complainer in a residential block a considerable distance away from the venue, the other side of a major road, apparently disturbed every so often. In this instance Islington Gates is directly opposite the club and numerous residents have consistently been disturbed.

The common argument is the venues were there first, therefore residents should expect noise. This holds true - the residents of Islington Gates were fully away of the bars when they moved in, however since then Summer Row and Mechu in particular has become livelier much later into the night.

So what are the potential solutions?

1) The Mechu license is restricted to 2am. This would ensure the area is free from noise by approximately 2.30am, instead of 4.30am. Perhaps this could be restricted to midnight on weekdays?

2) A signed taxi rank is created on Lionel Street, the other end of Summer Row. The difficulty here is marshalling and preventing illegal taxis from touting for business at the Fleet Street end.

You can comment on the license review by emailing licensing@birmingham.gov.uk before 9th July 2009.


Planning Application: 18-19 Caroline Street

18-19 Caroline St could become a live/work unit

A planning application for change of use at 18-19 Caroline Street is currently open for comment. The former jewellers workshops, just 150m from St Paul’s Square, have been vacant for over two years and are in a poor state of repair.

The applicant wants to set up a photography studio on the ground floor and make other units available to the creative industries. The first floor would be refurbished to allow the applicant to live above the units. Some internal structural changes have been proposed.

The building occupies a prominent place on Caroline Street so I am pleased to hear the applicant would not make any external changes other than signage. There is also no parking requirement.

You can view the full application including floor plans and photographs using the Planning Online tool and reference C/02412/09/FUL. Comments must be made by 1st July 2009.

I’d be interested to hear your thoughts.


4am Project in the Jewellery Quarter

It's not every Sunday morning I get up at 3.30am, but that's exactly what I did this morning, in the name of the 4am Project! The brainchild of Karen Strunks, the 4am Project aims to gather a collection of photos from around the world at the magical time of 4am.

I missed the first shoot back on 4th April (4/4) so with this re-run being held on the Summer Solstice in the Jewellery Quarter, I had no excuse. So armed with a flask of coffee and some spare batteries, I wandered down to St. Paul's Square.

It was a pleasure to meet everyone, a mix of professionals, keen amateurs and point-and-clickers like me! We wandered around St. Paul's Square, Brook Street, Newhall Street and up to the top of the St. Paul's Square car park. Unfortunatley we were short of time so couldn't head into the heart of the Jewellery Quarter, or down to the canals. Another time!

After a short interview with Karen which will no doubt make its way onto YouTube first, I asked her when she first picked up a camera. I was shocked to hear it was less than two years ago. You can learn a lot in a short space of time, it would seem!

Here's a selection of my shots, for the rest check out my Flickr.

4am Project - picnic in St. Paul's Square 4am Project - St. Paul's Square Car Park

4am Project - Outside the Assay Office on Newhall Street 4am Project - Brook Street

4am Project - Jaguar XK on James Street 4am Project - St Paul's Church

4am Project - Lasan Restaurant on James Street 4am Project - Newhall Street


License Application: 89-91 Livery Street

Last week I wrote to all residents local to 89-91 Livery Street to inform them of a license application. The license would be for late night music, dancing and alcohol sales, so effectively it's an application for a nightclub. Opening hours could potentially be until 2am during the week, with Friday and Saturday extended to 4am.

The premises are next to the recently opened Hatters Youth Hostel and very close to large residential blocks. In fact the top floor of the premises overlooks the courtyard of one block!

Despite the presence of Subway City further down the road, this is a quiet residential area and I have no doubt that a nightclub would cause extreme disturbance to local residents, not to mention those staying in the hostel. With the saga that was TRMNL only a recent memory, it's important that the right decision is made early with this application.

I already know of five residents who have written to oppose the application. You can add your views by emailing Birmingham City Council at licensing@birmingham.gov.uk quoting reference 61547. You have until 2nd July.

89-91 Livery Street
89-91 Livery Street

Looking up Livery Street
Looking up Livery Street


24 Carrots – Jewellery Quarter Farmers Market

One of the (few!) complaints of living in the Jewellery Quarter is the lack of local shops selling fresh produce. The Tesco Express is good at what it does, but from time to time we all crave fresh fruit & veg, fresh meat and that personal touch.

But fear not, for salvation is here! On Saturday 4th July come on down to the square in front of The Big Peg (click for map) for the launch of the Jewellery Quarter Farmers Market, called (of course) 24 Carrots.

The market was the brainchild of a local resident and has been driven by a sub-group of the Jewellery Quarter Neighbourhood Forum. They've done a sterling job and I believe nearly 30 stallholders are signed up. Check out the 24 Carrots website for more information.

Whilst I appreciate this is no substitute for a local butchers, bakers and greengrocers, it is a positive move. Before I moved to the Jewellery Quarter I lived above a butchers shop and a greengrocers so I ate fresh food nearly every day. With city centre living it’s so easy to fall into the trap of takeaway after takeaway. 24 Carrots should remind some people that fresh food exists, can be easy to get hold of and of course, tastes great. Full marks on the healthy eating scorecard, folks!

If you need any further encouragement, the 24 Carrots Launch coincides with the Jewellery Quarter Festival in St Paul's Square, featuring live jazz and classical music, a jewellers market and Matthew Boulton
themed heritage activities.

There is no excuse not to visit the Jewellery Quarter on Saturday 4th July!


Lib Dem Lord to Propose Live Music Bill

An encouraging sign for followers of the Keep Digbeth Vibrant / Noisy / Spotted Dog / Rainbow campaigns. Today a Lib Dem Lord is proposing a live music bill to clear up the bureaucratic minefield that is licensing law. In a letter printed in the Guardian, Lord Clement-Jones wrote:

Back in 2003, ministers called the new Licensing Act "a licensing regime for the 21st century", yet where live music is concerned, they actually turned the licensing clock back more than 100 years. A case in 1899 (Brearley v Morley) established that a pub landlord could let customers use a piano on his premises without an entertainment licence. Today, such a landlord could face criminal prosecution where the maximum penalty is a £20,000 fine and six months in prison.

It is as a result of absurdities like this that today, in the House of Lords, I am announcing my intention to bring forward a live music bill which will clear up the bureaucratic minefield of the Licensing Act and breathe new life into the live music scene.

Tim Clement-Jones
Lib Dem, House of Lords

In the meantime closer to home, I am talking to as many Liberal Democrat colleagues of mine as possible about the situation in Digbeth with the hope that we do not lose the Rainbow.

The issue of planning and licensing for venues in the city centre is a very delicate one, as emphasised by a number of cases in the Jewellery Quarter recently, namely TRMNL and Bluu & Mechu on Summer Row. But I firmly believe there is a balance that can and must be found. Residents, Councillors, Council Officers, Venue Owners and Gig-Goers must all work together to find that balance. Let’s get on with it.


Local pubs listed in Guardian Good Pub Guide

Great to see two local establishments listed in the Observer's Good Summer Pub Guide today. So hats off to my local the Lord Clifden and the Wellington.

Thanks to Chris Unitt for the heads-up.

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Stan’s Cafe 24hr Scalextric Race

After the fun that was the Hockley Flyover Show, came the after-party. The location was in the A.E. Harris factory on Northwood Street in the Jewellery Quarter. Over the course of the weekend this was also home to the Stan's Cafe 24hr Scalextric race, timed to coincide with the Le Mans 24hr race, so inevitably the two came together!

The arena was very quiet as it closed to the public before the after-party began. But this allowed us to get up close and personal with the race, including me marshalling for 15 minutes! Listening to commentary of me marshalling a skalextric race was bizarre to say the least.

Some people will no doubt belittle an event like this as a waste of time. I couldn't disagree more. Theatre such as this (and that's exactly what I class it as) which allows people to get involved not only there in person but online through the commentary, makes the arts in general so much more accessible and interesting to a wider range of people.

I took a couple of snaps, but for far better ones from Pete Ashton go here.

Live Internet Commentary of the 24-hr Skalextric Race

Zoom Zoom!

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