A closed down Italian bistro in Jesmond is set to be replaced by a “fantastic” new restaurant – after operators moved to dismiss neighbours’ fears that it could be turned into a nightclub.
Sale Pepe closed down earlier this year, unable to survive the devastating impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. But the St George’s Terrace site is due to be transformed into Lovage – and the new restaurant comes with an award-winning pedigree.
City councillors were told on Thursday that Lovage would be a sister company to the team which runs the Blackbird in Ponteland, recently named as the best pub in the North East, and the acclaimed Northumberland Arms in Felton.
Bosses also addressed fears from a handful of residents that the building could be turned into a rowdy club-style venue that would cause nuisance to neighbouring families.
Solicitor Richard Arnott, representing the building’s owners S Jones Group in front of Newcastle City Council’s licensing sub-committee on Tuesday, said that the site had been home to restaurants for more than 50 years and the new occupiers were simply seeking to continue that tradition.
Six objections had been lodged against the bid to secure a licence for the new restaurant, including from the Jesmond Dene Estate Residents Association claiming that the applicant was “attempting to target students” and was setting up “a nightclub in a quiet residential area”. Other residents complained that there are “already many late night establishments on Osborne Road” and that the new restaurant would “likely cause great disturbance to the area”.
Mr Arnott clarified that it was “absolutely not the case” that the high-end bistro was aimed at students and that it had “no interest in being a bad neighbour”. He added: “It is quite clear from everything we have produced that the venue will not be a nightclub. It is tiny, it has no dance floor, you can see the conditions. It will not be a nightclub.”
The solicitor said that Sale Pepe “did not cause any problems” for neighbours in more than 20 years of operating and that Lovage would replicate its licensed hours, running until 12.30am, with a raft of more modern conditions, such as requiring CCTV be installed and specifying that it can only trade as a restaurant rather than become a bar.
A representative of the residents association asked the council to impose a noise limit on the restaurant to allay local concerns, similar to a recent crackdown on nuisance caused by major events in Exhibition Park, and told councillors that any application which included a provision to play music until 12.30am was “always likely to make residents anxious”.
Mr Arnott said his client would happily agree to a condition requiring that music be kept at a background level that would allow patrons to comfortably have conversations with each other. He added: “Lovage will be an asset to the area. It will be a fantastic restaurant and I am sure that, in time, everybody will come to appreciate us.”
The council will issue a decision on the licence application for Lovage within five working days.