Agenda item

Playhouse Theatre, Northumberland Avenue, WC2N 5DE


Site Name & Address


Licensing Reference No.

St James


West End**

Playhouse Theatre, Northumberland Avenue, WC2N 5DE

Variation to the Premises Licence


*Cumulative Impact Area
** Special Consideration Zone






(“The Committee”)


Thursday 11 November 2021  


Membership: Councillor Karen Scarborough (Chairman) Councillor Heather Acton

and Councillor Aicha Less


Officer Support:       Legal Advisor:         Viviene Walker

                                Policy Officer:          Aaron Hardy

                                Committee Officer:  Sarah Craddock

                                Presenting Officer:  Emanuela Meloyan



Application for a Variation of Premises Licence in respect of Playhouse Theatre Northumberland Avenue London WC2N 5DE 21/10146/LIPV




Playhouse Theatre

Northumberland Avenue

London WC2N 5DE



Playhouse Theatre Limited

Represented by James Rankin (Counsel, Francis Taylor Buildings), Ewen Macgregor (Agent of TLT Solicitors), Michael Bond (Theatre Manager, Playhouse Theatre) and Andrew Rawlinson (Director, London and West End Theatre)


Cumulative Impact Area?


The Premises are not in a Cumulative Impact Area




St James’s


Special Consideration Zone?


West End


Proposed Licensable Activities and Hours


This application seeks the following:


  • To vary the layout and design of the premises in accordance with the plans found at Appendix 1, to now reconfigure the internal layout of the premises to reflect but not limited to: change in auditorium layout at each level, including the repositioning of stage on ground floor, resulting in an overall decrease in capacity of the venue; at basement level repositioning of bar and redefined hospitality space; at ground floor level utilisation of the established stage door entrance for customers on Craven Street and repositioning of bar; and, at second floor level, repositioning of bar and new mobile concession points. Locations of fire safety and other safety equipment subject to change in accordance with the requirements of the responsible authorities or following a risk assessment.


  • To remove conditions 18 and 26


  • To add an additional condition



Representations Received

·       Metropolitan Police Service (withdrawn 28 October 2021)

·       Environmental Health Service (Anil Drayan)

·       Sterling Estates Management Limited, Agents for the Freeholder

·       Six Local Residents (Helen Brown, James Lapushner, Mark Adams,

·        Dr. Shareen Chua, Martin Deutz and Daniel Loo) Richard Brown, Licensing Lawyer, Westminster Citizens Advice Bureau represented Martin Deutz and Shareen Chua)


Summary of issues raised by objectors


·       Environmental Health were concerned that the application may undermine the Licensing Objectives of Public Nuisance and Public Safety.

·       The residents were concerned about noise levels, the congestion in Craven Street as well as the potential for drunken disorderly behaviour and its wider ramifications to the street and the residents. 


Policy Position


Under Policy HSR1 applications for hours outside the core hours set out in Clause 3 will be considered on their merits, subject to other relevant policies in the Statement of Licensing Policy.


Under Policy CCSOS1(A) applications outside the West End Cumulative Zones will generally be granted subject to not being contrary to other policies in the SLP. 




                                SUBMISSIONS AND REASONS


Ms Emanuela Meloyan, Senior Licensing Officer, summarised the application set out in the report before the Sub-Committee.  She advised that the application was for a Variation to the Premises Licence which intended to operate as a theatre.  She further advised that representations had been received from the Environmental Health Service and interested parties; and that the Metropolitan Police Service who had subsequently withdrawn their representation.  The Sub-Committee noted that the Premises are situated within the St James’s Ward but not in the West End Cumulative Impact Zone. The Sub-Committee further noted that the Premises are situated in the West End Special Consideration Zone.


Mr Rankin, representing the applicant, addressed the Sub-Committee and explained that the Playhouse Theatre was bringing cabaret back to the West End by transforming the theatre into the famous Kit Kat Club.  He apologised to the residents for the noise that the building work had created and confirmed to the Sub-Committee that Environmental Health Service had now agreed to remove the works condition on the Premises Licence. 


Mr Rankin advised that the application was in two parts: the amendment to the layout of the Premises and the removal of conditions 18 and 26 on the Premises Licence. He further advised that the theatre wished to reduce its capacity by 25% from 819 patrons to 635 patrons. He referred to the Premises plans and outlined how customers would receive an immersive experience by entering the theatre through the stage door and by following a secret path, where actors would be performing in small alcoves, until finally arriving in the newly recreated Kit Kat Club.  Mr Rankin then advised the Sub-Committee of the new configuration of the theatre. 


Mr Rankin emphasised how important it was that stage door 1 was used as an entrance to the theatre.  He advised that there would be a post and rope system in place to ensure that there was no obstruction of the pavement in Craven Street, which was a grave concern of the residents.  He outlined that there would be three people servicing the door: one checking tickets, one checking covid passports and a SIA doorman.  He highlighted that the stage door would be used up to 7.30pm and that any late comers would need to use stage door 2 which was for disabled access.  He stated that the main entrance would now be used by customers to exit the theatre. 


Mr Rankin stated that the Premises had been a theatre since 1882, however, this was the first time that an application had been made to restrict the way customers accessed the theatre.  He requested that the Sub-Committee noted the reduction in capacity and that the theatre would encourage taxis cars to drop off and collect customers in the underpass off Craven Street.  He referred the Sub-Committee to the theatre’s strict dispersal policy at page 9 of the additional information pack and advised that man security would be available in Craven Street and at the front of the theatre from 12.15pm until at least 22.40 at night.


Mr Rankin advised that after 7.30pm the sale of alcohol would cease until the interval and there would be no sale of alcohol after the performance to prevent customers lingering in the theatre.  He then referred to the Environmental Health Services’ proposed conditions which set out how the theatre needed to operate in order to promote the licensing objectives and advised that the two directors and all the staff at the Playhouse theatre were very experienced and hands on so would ensure the promotion of the four licensing objectives.


Mr Rankin addressed the Sub-Committee on the second part of the application regarding the removal of conditions 18 and 26.  He requested that condition 18 be removed from the Premises Licence for clarification regarding the sale of alcohol on the Premises.  He then requested that condition 26 be removed and a new condition added to the licence allowing waiters/waitress to serve drinks in glass containers.


In response to questions from the Sub-Committee, Mr Rankin and Mr Bond (Theatre Manager) advised:

·       that the variation in the Premises Licence would allow the theatre and residents to regulate the operation of the theatre.

·       the dispersal of customers would be achieved via the main door and autograph hunters would be informed by security that actors would not be exiting the theatre via the stage door.  Staff would also encourage customers to leave quietly as it is a residential area and it had been estimated to take approximately 15 minutes for all customers to be dispersed out of the area.

·       the pre-communication/ticket information sent to customers would set out how to enter the theatre by 7.30pm and exit it after the performance.

·       glass containers were preferable for the customer and for the environment.

·       security would be available on Craven Street from 12.15pm each day to direct customers to the correct door and to prevent congestion of the pavement.

·       the PWC building was not connected with the theatre.


Anil Drayan, representing the Environmental Health Service (EHS), advised that EHS had made a representation because of the new proposed use of the stage door and how it would affect residents in Craven Street and Aria House.  He advised that he did not know how there was residential flats in the same building as a theatre and outlined that EHS had agreed condition 40 with the Applicant that any queuing for the stage door would be managed by security and the entrance to Ari House would not be blocked.  Mr Drayan advised that he was satisfied that the queue would be managed by snaking it back into Embankment Place (avoiding the main part of Craven Street) and emphasised that the stage door entrance would be unavailable after 7.30pm.  Customers would then need to use the main entrance to enter the theatre.  He explained that these types of queues were not known to cause noise problems unless the people in the queues were entertained by street performers/actors.  He further advised that he had proposed a condition to confirm that EHS was happy for the theatre to risk assess the use of glass containers.  He confirmed that he was agreeable to the removal of the works condition.  He advised the Sub-Committee that he was generally satisfied with the application. 


In response to questions from the Sub-Committee, Mr Drayan advised that Environmental Health Service had determined that the lorry ramp did not cause an issue in the street.  He emphasised that security was already in place as set out in proposed condition 9 (now condition 37) to prevent the entrance to Aria House being blocked.  He highlighted that not all customers would be using the stage door; roughly half would be using the stage door and half would be using the main entrance.  He added that the theatre would use a traffic light system to control customers entering the theatre via the stage door and that residents could complain to Westminster City Council if any street entertainers did not honour their licence. 


Mr Brown, Licensing lawyer, representing Mr Martin Deutz and Shareen Chua, advised that he was going to hand over to Mr Adams to set out the resident’s concerns.  Mr Adam advised that he was delighted that the theatre had been refurnished and would soon be opening again.  He referred to proposed condition one and discussed with the Environmental Health Service the possibility of adding details about the matinee performance to this condition.  He further requested that the Applicant clarify the activity at each point in Craven Street.  Mr Bond explained that everyone would be directed to join the queue for stage door 1 when they reached the main entrance and that there would be security patrolling the street to ensure all customers joined the correct queue in the correct place.  He added that there would also be signage displayed on the theatre. He advised there would be no queuing up Craven Street or in front of the PWC lorry exit.  Mr Adam then suggested that it would take longer than 15 minutes to disperse people and asked that condition 11 read ‘That from 15 minutes before entrance on Craven Street opens until at least 30 minutes after the performance ends there shall be at least one member of door security stationed on Craven Street whose duties shall include monitoring and control of the queue. This provision must be risk assessed by management’.  He also requested that residents be provided with up-to-date contact details of the management in case there were any further concerns regarding the operation of the theatre.  The Chairman advised that regular meetings should be arranged with the residents to discuss any issues arising from the operation of the Playhouse Theatre.  Mr Adam then requested that a condition be added ‘Patrons shall not be allowed to queue north of Hungerford Lane junction’.  Mr Rankin advised the Sub-Committee that the Applicant were satisfied with all the proposed conditions.


Mr Adams then referred to several photos that he had taken earlier in the week and explained that the damaged pavements were caused by lorries having difficulty turning into the narrow street.  He advised that he was very concerned regarding the health and safety aspect of the lorry ramp being situated right next to stage door 1 and having 350+ people queuing safely on a 2.5 width pavement.  Mr Drayan (EHS) responded by advising that lorries had to slow down very quickly once they reached the top of the rank to turn into the road and there was security present to manage the lorries.  Mr Drayan added that the security staff from the theatre would also be manging the people arriving to see the show as well as their tickets clearly indicating what time they needed to arrive at the theatre to enter the immersive experience.  Mr Rankin responded by setting out how each of the seven people (2 people checking tickets, 2 people checking covid passports and 3 security guards) would be working together to get people into the theatre and confirmed that extensive risk assessments had been carried out so that both staff and customer stayed safe.  Mr Drayan advised that he was satisfied regarding the safety aspects of using the stage door.  The Sub-Committee advised that residents could write to the Highways Agency and request double yellow lines to be placed on the opposite side of the lorry rank which would prevent cars parking there and aid lorries turning into the street.  The Sub-Committee then suggested that residents contact PWC to discuss the possibility of restricting the use of the lorry ramp to typical working hours.


Mr Deutz requested that the theatre revert their pre-ticket information back to informing customers to turn up at the main entrance and that the plan that went to the Planning Committee setting out the queuing area be attached to the Premises Licence.  Mr Rankin agreed to both requests from Mr Deutz.







The Sub Committee appreciated the fact that the Applicant had positively and proactively engaged with Responsible Authorities and residents.


In reaching its decision, the Sub-Committee took into consideration that the conditions had been agreed with all the Responsible Authorities, that the Premises was a theatre offering an amazing experience to customers visiting the West End and that the application was suitable for the local area; the theatre had been situated in Northumberland Avenue since 1882.  The Sub-Committee noted that the Premises were not located within a Cumulative Impact Area and therefore the application had to be considered on its merits.  The Sub-Committee were also of the opinion that the nature and operation of the Premises would not cause concern and in addition the conditions imposed on the Premises Licence would alleviate the residents’ concerns.  Accordingly, the Sub-Committee concluded that the licence would promote the licensing objectives.


Having carefully considered the committee papers and the submissions made by all of the parties, both orally and in writing, the Committee has decided, after taking into account all of the individual circumstances of this case and the promotion of the four licensing objectives:


1.        To grant permission to vary the layout and design of the premises in accordance with the plans submitted to the Licensing Authority.


2.        To grant permission to remove conditions 18 and 26 of the Licence.


3.        To grant permission to add condition 39 specified below.


4.        That the varied licence is subject to any relevant mandatory conditions.

5.      That the existing conditions on the licence shall apply in all respects except in so far as they are varied by this Decision.


6.        That the varied licence is subject to the following additional conditions and Informatives imposed by the Committee which are considered appropriate and proportionate to promote the licensing objectives.




Conditions reproducing the effect of conditions subject to which the relevant existing licences have effect


Conditions relating to regulated entertainment      


9.        This licence is subject to all the former Rules of Management for Places of Public Entertainment licensed by Westminster City Council, in force from 4 September 1998 and incorporating amendments agreed by the Council on 25 October 1999, 30 June 2000, 16 January 2001 and 1 October 2001.


10.      On New Year's Eve the premises can remain open for the purpose of providing regulated entertainment from the time when the provision of regulated entertainment must otherwise cease on New Year's Eve to the time when regulated entertainment can commence on New Year's Day (or until midnight on New Year's Eve where no regulated entertainment takes place on New Year's Day).


11.      Notwithstanding the provisions of Rule of Management No. 6, the premises may remain open for the purposes of this licence from 11pm on each of the days Sunday to Saturday to 2am on the day following,


12.      No alterations shall be carried out to the escape staircase to Hungerford Lane or the exit ways therefore without the prior approval of the Council.


13.      An attendant shall be on duty in the vicinity of the cloakroom area during the whole time the premises are in use.


14.      The number of persons accommodated at any one time (excluding staff) in the theatre shall not exceed 819.


15.      The number of persons permitted to stand shall not exceed the following: stalls 12 Dress Circle 7 Upper Circle 14


16.      Standing within the auditorium shall be restricted to the rear cross gangways only.


17.      Permanent, adequately illuminated notices must be provided to the rear stalls, Dress Circle and Upper Circle so as to clearly indicate the maximum number of standing persons allowed at each level of the auditorium


18.     Substantial food and non-intoxicating beverages shall be equally available throughout the permitted hours.


19.     Persons entering the premises after 11pm shall not have intoxicating liquor sold or supplied to them except for:

a) persons who have paid or had paid on their behalf an entrance fee for any show at the premises or any bona fide guests of such a person;

b) artistes or persons employed at the premises;

           c) persons attending a private function on the premises.


Conditions which reproduce the effect of any restriction imposed on the use of the premises by specified enactments


20.      Alcohol shall not be sold or supplied except during permitted hours.

(a)      On weekdays, other than Christmas Day, Good Friday or New Year's Eve, 10.00 to 23.00.

(b)      On Sundays, other than Christmas Day or New Year's Eve, 12.00 noon to 22.30.

(c)       On Good Friday, 12.00 to 22.30.

(d)      On Christmas Day, 12.00 to 15.00 and 19.00 to 22.30.

(e)      On New Year's Eve, except on a Sunday, 10.00 to 23.00.

(f)       On New Year's Eve on a Sunday, 12.00 to 22.30.

(g)      On New Year's Eve from the end of permitted hours on New Year's Eve to the start of permitted hours on the following day (or, if there are no permitted hours on the following day, 00.00 midnight on 31st December).


NOTE - The above restrictions do not prohibit:


(a)      during the first twenty minutes after the above hours the consumption of the alcohol on the premises;

(b)      during the first twenty minutes after the above hours, the taking of the alcohol from the premises unless the alcohol is supplied or taken in an open vessel;

(c)       during the first thirty minutes after the above hours the consumption of the alcohol on the premises by persons taking table meals there if the alcohol was supplied for consumption as ancillary to the meals;

(d)      the sale or supply of alcohol to or the consumption of alcohol by any person residing in the licensed premises;

(e)      the ordering of alcohol to be consumed off the premises, or the despatch by the vendor of the alcohol so ordered;

(f)       the sale of alcohol to a trader or registered club for the purposes of the trade or club;

(g)      the sale or supply of alcohol to any canteen or mess, being a canteen in which the sale or supply of alcohol is carried out under the authority of the Secretary of State or an authorised mess of members of Her Majesty's naval, military or air forces;

           (h)      the taking of alcohol from the premises by a person residing there;

(i)       the supply of alcohol for consumption on the premises to any private friends of a person residing there who are bona fide entertained by him at his own expense, or the consumption of alcohol by persons so supplied;

(j)        the supply of alcohol for consumption on the premises to persons employed there for the purposes of the business carried on by the holder of the licence, or the consumption of liquor so supplied, if the liquor is supplied at the expense of their employer or of the person carrying on or in charge of the business on the premises.


In this condition, any reference to a person residing in the premises shall be construed as including a person not residing there but carrying on or in charge of the business on the premises.


21.     No person under fourteen shall be in the bar of the licensed premises during the permitted hours unless one of the following applies:

           (a)      He is the child of the holder of the premises licence.

           (b)      He resides in the premises but is not employed there.

(c)       He is in the bar solely for the purpose of passing to or from some part of the premises which is not a bar and to or from which there is no other convenient means of access or egress.

(d)      The bar is in railway refreshment rooms or other premises constructed, fitted and intended to be used bona fide for any purpose to which the holding of the licence is ancillary.


In this condition "bar" includes any place exclusively or mainly used for the consumption of intoxicating liquor. But an area is not a bar when it is usual for it to be, and it is, set apart for the service of table meals and alcohol is only sold or supplied to persons as an ancillary to their table meals.


22.     If any entertainment is provided for children or if an entertainment is provided at which the majority of persons attending are children, then, if the number of children attending the entertainment exceeds 100, it shall be the duty of the holder of the premises licence (or the holder of the club premises certificate):

(a)      to station and keep stationed wherever necessary a sufficient number of adult attendants, properly instructed as to their duties, to prevent more children or other persons being admitted to the building, or to any part thereof, than the building or part can properly accommodate,

(b)      to control the movement of the children and other persons admitted while entering and leaving the building or any part thereof, and

(c)       to take all other reasonable precautions for the safety of the children.


23.     The terminal hour for late night refreshment on New Year's Eve is extended to 05:00 on New Year's Day.


Conditions consistent with the operating Schedule


24.      The sale of alcohol by staff from trays to persons attending a ticketed event within the auditorium areas as hatched blue and coloured yellow on plans lodged with the application is limited to the period of 30 minutes before the event commences and during interval(s) of the event.


25.     Staff shall supervise any queues of persons wishing to purchase alcohol sold as described in condition 24.


 26.     If a person trying to purchase alcohol as described in condition 24 looks under 21 years of age, suitable photographic ID shall be requested, and if none available then the sale of alcohol shall not proceed.


27.      Persons who appear to be drunk shall not be sold alcohol as described in condition 24.


28.      Any refusal to sell alcohol as described in condition 24 shall be recorded in the refusals book.


29.      All staff involved in the sale of alcohol as described in condition 24 shall be fully trained in and conversant with the relevant law relating to the sale of alcohol.



Conditions imposed by the Committee after a hearing with the agreement of the Applicant


30.      The licensable activities authorised by this licence and provided at the premises shall be ancillary to the main function of the premises as a theatre.


31.      The premises shall install and maintain a comprehensive CCTV system as per the minimum requirements of the Westminster Police Licensing Team.  All entry and exit points will be covered enabling frontal identification of every person entering in any light condition.  The CCTV system shall continually record whilst the premises are open for licensable activities and during all times when customers remain on the premises and will include the external area immediately outside the premises entrance.  All recordings shall be stored for a minimum period of 31 days with date and time stamping. Viewing of recordings shall be made available immediately upon the request of Police or authorised officer throughout the entire 31-day period.


32.      A staff member from the premises who is conversant with the operation of the CCTV system shall be on the premises at all times when the premises are open. This staff member must be able to provide a Police or authorised council officer copies of recent CCTV images or data with the absolute minimum of delay when requested.


33.     Use of the stage door entrance 2 by customers shall cease by no later than 19:30 hours.


34.      Except for in an emergency the stage door entrance 2 shall not be used by customers as an exit route at any time.


35.      Use of the stage door entrance 2 by customers shall cease at the end of the Cabaret production run.


36.      Queuing outside the premises shall be restricted to designated areas located  along the Playhouse façade and along Embankment Place.


37.      There shall be staff stationed externally to manage any queues along Craven Street; access to/from Aria House is not blocked; and at closing time to encourage customers not to congregate and not to use Craven Street as a route away from the premises.


38.      There shall be a reduction in customer capacity from 819 to 635 for the duration of the Cabaret production run.  


39.      All supplies of alcohol and drinks for consumption within the theatre auditoria shall be in non-glass containers unless the use of glass in the auditoria has been risk assessed and signed off by management.  A copy of the risk assessment is to be kept on the premises and made available for inspection by the responsible authorities on request.  The risk assessment is to be reviewed at least annually.


40.      Notices shall be prominently displayed at all entrances and exits requesting patrons to respect the needs of local residents and businesses and leave the area quietly.


41.      Patrons permitted to temporarily leave and then re-enter the premises, e.g., to smoke or make a phone call, shall not be permitted to take glass containers with them.


42.      That from 15 minutes before entrance on Craven Street opens until at least 30 minutes after the performance ends there shall be at least one member of door security stationed on Craven Street whose duties shall include monitoring and control of the queue. This provision must be risk assessed by management.


43.      Patrons shall not be allowed to queue north of Hungerford Lane junction.


44.      That an email address and contact number for the theatre shall be made available to local residents. 





45.      The Premises Licence Holder has agreed to encourage patrons to arrive at the front entrance of the Theatre prior to being processed.


46.      The Premises Licence Holder has agreed to submit to the Licensing Authority the plan approved by the Planning Team.


47.      The Premises Licence Holder has agreed to hold regular meetings with local residents and businesses as needed.


48.      The Premises Licence Holder has agreed to monitor the queues during matinees.



This is the Full Decision reached by the Licensing Sub-Committee

This Decision takes immediate effect.


Licensing Sub-Committee

11 November 2021


Supporting documents: