Fulham FC Gets Approval for Late Night Licences

Concerns about noise and public nuisance fail to sway councillors

The new Riverside stand will include a rooftop pool, forming part of the Sky Deck on the top three floors
The new Riverside stand will include a rooftop pool, forming part of the Sky Deck on the top three floors

May 1, 2024

Licences for a high-end hotel and members club have been approved as part of Fulham FC’s redevelopment of its Riverside stand. Hammersmith and Fulham councillors this Tuesday (30 April) waved through a total of seven applications, moving the Premier League club’s scheme a step closer to completion.

Concerns about late-night drinking and noise resulting from the proposed licences were raised during the two meetings, with a resident telling councillors there are ‘major questions’ as to the potential impact on public nuisance in the local area.

The estimated £100 million redevelopment of the stand at Fulham FC’s Craven Cottage stadium has been in the pipeline since 2013, with construction starting in 2019 following the council approving planning permission. To be completed over the course of the 2024/25 season, it will increase the stand’s capacity to roughly 8,000 spectators, and the total for the ground to around 28,500.

A number of bars, restaurants and conference spaces are also planned, plus amenities such as the hotel and the members club.

While the wider redevelopment had already been approved, councillors were yesterday deciding on seven premises licences associated with the scheme; the hotel, spa café, members club, and licences for four floors in the stand itself, to be operated for purposes including a restaurant and the Chairman’s Suite.

Objections filed prior to the meeting largely revolved around the suggested opening hours and times at which alcohol is to be served. The hotel, for example, is to operate 24/7, though alcohol sales would be restricted to residents and ‘bona fide guests’ on the premises.

Isobel Hill-Smith, chair of the Fulham Society and a resident, spoke against the majority of the applications, including the hotel and members club. She told the Licensing Sub-Committee the hotel is close to a block of flats, and that “the noise of people enjoying alcohol would be broadcast, particularly because the river amplifies the sound”.

Craig Baylis, a solicitor at Keystone Law representing the club, said it is normal for hotels to have 24-hour licences, as it enables residents to drink from the minibar in their room whenever they please. He added there is no bar in the hotel or a restaurant, and will not be suitable for large groups, with just 13 rooms for guests.

“It’s perfectly normal for 24-hour licences to be granted, not just for this hotel, but for any hotel in London,” he said.

On the members club, Mr Baylis said significant interest had already been received from locals, with it to operate as multi-use and to provide facilities including a crèche. “Of all the different operations, this one garnered a lot of interest. People are already asking if they can sign up for membership straight away.”

Across the seven applications, Ms Hill-Smith told councillors the primary objection was to the proposed ground floor licence, which did not stipulate alcohol must be kept on the premises. The lack of such a restriction, she said, would mean alcohol would be taken ‘in large quantities’ to the river walk to the north of the stadium and Bishop’s Park to its south.

“This raises major questions of public nuisance and also the protection of children which are key considerations in the licensing application,” she said. “The public nuisance also includes the issue of litter, which I think your supplementary evidence shows evidence of.”

Mr Baylis said the ground floor, which is to be called the Riverside Market, is “a crucial element to the whole development”, and will include a range of shops, cafés and bars. The stadium already has a licence which enables sales of alcohol to be taken off-site, he added, and that people can currently do the things Ms Hill-Smith is concerned about.

He said, “The reality is I can go to Sainsbury’s and buy a bottle of wine or four cans of beer and go and drink it in Bishop’s Park. I can take a beer from the local off-licence and walk along the riverside with it now.”

After hearing each of the applications in turn, councillors resolved to approve all seven, albeit with a number of conditions attached. These included particular obligations regarding collecting litter, and that, for the ground floor licence, drinks in glass containers cannot be drunk outside.

Images released earlier this year showed the rooftop swimming pool planned for the stadium’s Sky Deck as part of the stand’s redevelopment. Fulham Chairman Shahid Khan previously said his vision for the Riverside stand is “to provide our fans, and our neighbourhood, with a destination that would continue to honour our history and tradition at Craven Cottage every day of the year, but especially so on matchdays with a premium experience that will be unlike anything in football, here in London or elsewhere”.

Ben Lynch - Local Democracy Reporter