Nation's smallest pub receives setback

A BID by Britain's smallest pub to safeguard its future by boosting custom with outside seating may be scuppered by red tape, it has emerged.Officials say there are regulations which mean tables could only be placed outside The Nutshell, in Bury St Edmunds, if it serves food – but it has no kitchen.

A BID by Britain's smallest pub to safeguard its future by boosting custom with outside seating may be scuppered by red tape, it has emerged.

Officials say there are regulations which mean tables could only be placed outside The Nutshell, in Bury St Edmunds, if it serves food – but it has no kitchen.

The news means the tireless campaign run by landlord Martin Baylis to expand the tiny bar's clientele and secure its financial future may end in tatters.

Mr Baylis had hoped to win permission from St Edmundsbury Borough Council for a street café vending permit at a crunch meeting next week.


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But agenda papers circulated yesterday by the authority ahead of the licensing sub-committee's discussion suggest the historic pub, which measures just 15ft by 7ft, may not meet the required criteria – despite nearly 1,500 people from across the world supporting an EADT crusade to save the local.

They say although the application appears to adhere to general policy, guidelines specific to street cafés indicate food service is an essential element.

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"Outdoor cafés will only be acceptable if they are located adjoining a premises used as a café and must be carried out as part of the business of that café," the papers read.

"Tables must be serviced directly from immediately adjacent premises, where the food is prepared and sold, and where there is an approved food use."

But the Nutshell, as Britain's smallest pub, has no kitchen and is not used as a café, while no food preparation is carried out at the site.

It does, however, have a food registration, restricted to the provision of alcohol, chilled drinks and confectionary.

A spokesman for the council said committee members would take all of the criteria into account when making a decision on the Nutshell next Thursday.

Mr Baylis, although not available for comment yesterday, has said winning permission for the tables is essential for his future livelihood – and without the licence, he fears his pub will close.

"Tables outside all through the summer would have made a fundamental difference and doubled our profits," he said. "Our trade is generally tourist-based, and we need to get as many people in the pub as possible.

"If we had tables and chairs outside, more people would stop and have a drink. It really could make the difference between staying open or closing."

The plight of the Nutshell has resulted in an outpouring of public support for the pub, which dates back to the 1600s.

But five people have written to the council to object to Mr Baylis' bid for a street vending permit, saying they fear the extra custom would promote bad language and anti-social behaviour.

"The Nutshell is the meeting place of regular daytime drinkers," said Peter Allen, director of Gerald Boughton Ltd, which has two businesses within the immediate vicinity of the pub.

"The introduction of tables and chairs will do nothing more than encouraging these people to spread further outside.

"Even now they can often be found just outside the premises, glass in hand. The language used and loud nature of a lot of these people will do nothing to encourage shoppers and visitors to the area.

"History has shown the problems associated with drinking outside this venue. Groups of over 100 people have previously been counted outside the premises, with high levels of anti-social behaviour observed.

"This has resulted in past action and even prompted the council to remove seating from the area – the very thing which is being proposed for re-introduction."

But Betty Martin, from Milton in Cambridge, urged the council to support Mr Baylis' application, saying: "Shouldn't the council be helping this landlord to keep such a tourist attraction? Shouldn't it be promoting this venue?"

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