Sikh worshippers objected in vain to longer alcohol and entertainment licensing hours at a Milton Keynes sports bar and music venue at a meeting yesterday (Tuesday).
The MK11 sports bar, in Keller Close, Kiln Farm, applied to the council to extend the times they can sell alcohol, including to 5.30am on occasional dates so they can show televised American wrestling bouts.
The sports and music bar, along with the Ramgorhhia Sabha Sikh temple, and business units, sit close to each other on the same site on an industrial estate in MK. Tuesday’s Licensing Sub Committee heard there are issues of parking, access, and noise, which disrupts prayers.
“Peace, quiet, and tranquility are at the forefront of our thoughts,” said Narinderjit Singh Ubhi. “The congregation should be able to contemplate and pray without distractions.
“On occasions we have continuous religious services running for 48 hours and have up to 400 visitors but we are troubled by this noise.”
In submissions totalling 200 pages of claim and counter-claim between MK11 and the Temple, MK Council licensing officer Ed Fisher said he had “run out of letters of the alphabet” for all the appendices.
Other submissions presented to the council stated that MK11 produced so much noise that the priest who lives on the site could not sleep and worshippers were not able to pray in peace. Worshippers are worried that the priest will get fed up with the noise and want to move on.
The operators of MK11, Mark and Simon O’Brien, said that they were open to resolving complaints but the Temple had consistently failed to respond, to raise issues, or to provide any evidence.
They are planning to use squash courts at the former social club as a better performance area, which includes high-tech sound limiting equipment.
Mark O’Brien said he was concerned that MK11 had been “characterised as a seedy rave venue”, which was wrong.
“If we were not a vital cultural premise we would not be eligible for funding under the Arts Council,” he said. “We put music events on often at a financial loss.
“We use income from sports events and food to support grassroots live music.” They have been running MK11 for six years. Before they took it over, it was a social club.
The applicants said they had been responsible with parking by employing parking and security wardens, but the Sikh temple “do not take responsibility for their parking.”
“We really do make a huge effort,” added Mr O’Brien. “It’s our livelihoods and our living. There have been so many wild accusations, that I do not know where to begin. We just want to get on with running our business.”
As well as wads of documents, including a petition signed by 149 worshippers, the committee of three councillors saw two videos, one from MK11 and another from the temple supporters, showing problems with parking and of a delivery lorry running on to the pavement.
There were also claims of anti-social behaviour, but police had withdrawn an objection after the venue agreed to a list of conditions being placed on the licence. Other statutory bodies, including Environmental Health and Trading Standards, had not made representations.
The committee heard that with 300 people attending the sports and music bar, and 400 going to events at the temple, there simply was not enough parking on the site to accommodate everyone.
The committee heard that the venue is able to use about 57 car parking spaces, while the temple has about 65.
Committee chairman, Cllr Mick Legg (Lab, Bletchley West) said the dispute between the venue and the temple had got “out of hand” and urged the two sides to seek mediation.
Cllr Legg granted the extended hours to MK11 and thanked everyone who attended the hearing for their calmness and thoroughness. He said he had been in other places where issues had degenerated into shouting matches.
“It has been a difficult decisions and we have looked at both sides of the coin,” he said.
“You could and should have resolved these issues through proper dialogue, I expect all of you to behave as good neighbours.
“I enourage all parties here to talk to professional mediation people, to discuss the sit.”
The committee of three councillors added a number of conditions to the licence, including better signs in the car park, the keeping of a complaints log.