Neighbours fail to close Guy Ritchie's pub

Council imposes restrictions after receiving 70 complaints
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The Independent Online

Having already had time called on his marriage to Madonna, the film-maker Guy Ritchie has narrowly avoided last orders also being served on his London pub.

After formal complaints from neighbours, Westminster City Council has imposed various working conditions on the Punchbowl in Mayfair, including customers not being allowed to drink outside after 8pm and smokers restricted to a certain area after that time. Staff also have to make hourly checks outside for glasses and litter.

Ritchie, whose Sherlock Holmes remake premiered in London this week, co-owns the pub. Some 70 complaints about rowdy drunken crowds have been made in the past 18 months.

The council arranged a hearing after it received a 23-page application from residents wanting to get the pub's licence reviewed.

Sherlock Holmes actors Jude Law and Robert Downey Junior have enjoyed "a lot of late nights in the pub", Ritchie admitted at Monday night's premiere of the film. Justin Timberlake and Kevin Spacey have also been known to visit. The pub is pointed out on London sightseeing tour buses and has hosted many private parties, including Ritchie's 40th birthday in September last year, which jammed the road with traffic.

The three residents behind the application to get the licence reviewed were art dealer Alan Hobart, Canadian property tycoon William Shenkman and Meryl Caio. Their barrister Leo Charalambides said: "It has metamorphasised from a ye olde local English pub into something that's really internationally recognised on the A-list party circuit and by those who would like to get some of the glamour of going to such a venue."

Residents had complained about noise levels, broken glass, and that crowds of up to 150 people spill out of the pub and drink in the middle of the road. They also claim that customers have urinated against local houses on the otherwise quiet Mayfair side street.

Mr Charalambides said that pub regulars were members of the "leisure classes" who could afford to "cause a nuisance on seven days of the week". He claimed that the pub hosts live music acts, which Ritchie has mentioned in press interviews, despite not having a licence to do so.

Ward councillor Glenys Roberts told the hearing: "We are absolutely not against pubs. We are not even against the Punchbowl except that it has changed dramatically in its nature since the old historic building and activities that we were all familiar with before."

Representing the pub, Julian Skeen said that Ritchie would have liked to be at the hearing but was busy working on his new film. He said: "He very much wanted to be here. You'll see in the papers that he is thought to be a central figure for these premises."

Co-director of the pub Piers Adam, a friend of Princes William and Harry, attended the hearing. He said that despite the problems they hoped to keep running the venue.

"It has been mine and Guy's local for 10 years, and hopefully we'll be there until we pop off," he said.