Sommelier gets green light for ‘dream’ wine bar in Hitchin

PUBLISHED: 17:31 07 August 2018 | UPDATED: 17:31 07 August 2018

A new wine bar is set to open in Hitchin. File photo. Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto

A new wine bar is set to open in Hitchin. File photo. Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto

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Professional sommelier Duncan Gammie has been given the go-ahead to open his “dream” wine bar in Hitchin.

Mr Gammie – who has worked in Michelin-starred restaurants – currently runs tasting experiences around the county, to make wine “less complicated”.

But now he’s looking to run them from his very own Bucklersbury venue – which will act as a shop through the day and wine bar at night.

“It’s my dream to create a place where you can learn about wine in an informed, but informal environment,” Mr Gammie told a meeting of North Herts District Council’s Licensing and Appeals Sub-Committee.

“That’s what I’m looking to do at Bucklersbury – somewhere that’s a wine shop during the day, where you can buy a bottle of wine, and in the evening a quiet and relaxed wine bar, to catch up with friends over a glass of wine and a plate of cheese.

“We are aiming for a specific clientele of affluent couples and groups of friends who can come together and have a conversation.”

At the hearing, neighbour Stuart Chilvers – who has lived next door to the currently empty shop premises for 20 years – told the panel he was concerned about the impact the noise would have.

Particularly, he said, he was concerned by the noise from the upstairs room of the venue – which shares a wall with his bedroom.

“We have lived in the town centre for 20 years,” said Mr Chilvers. “We don’t expect peace and quiet.

“We’ve never objected to any licensing previously. We like living in the town and we like the buzz – but this is different.

“Before there have been retail outlets. The shops were closing at 5pm – but this is midnight.”

Mr Gammie said noise from the venue – which will hold just 20 people – would be “much more like a dinner party in someone’s house than a disruptive bar”.

“While I can’t be as quiet as an empty shop, we can be the quietest bar in Hitchin and that’s what we would be aiming to do,” he said.

“We’re not looking to try and cram as many people as possible in, but to create a specific concept with a certain level of service.”

The panel agreed to grant the licence for the wine bar, subject to a number of conditions – including sound-proofing upstairs to contain any noise.

Reflecting the noise concerns, the sub-committee insisted that sound proofing – a well as the required additional toilet facilities – is in place before public use is made of the upstairs room.

And, they said, the licence for the upstairs room will extend to 10pm only and be open to the public until 10.30pm.

Committee chairman Councillor Jim McNally said this was a “balanced decision” that was sympathetic to the noise concerns and reflected the importance of the night-time economy.

Meanwhile, the downstairs areas will be licensed to be open from 10am until midnight, with the sale of alcohol allowed until 11.30pm.

There were also conditions relating to the use of and access to CCTV, the Challenge 25 policy, as well as waste and deliveries.

During the hearing. Mr Gammie also told the panel he hopes to employ local people during holidays and hopes to build relationships with apprentices from local colleges.

There is a right to appeal the decisions of the panel, which would have to be lodged within 21 days.

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