Worthing eatery avoids enforcement notice for now following complaints

A Worthing eatery has avoided enforcement action for now after promising to apply for planning permission.

Karma Lounge, in Tarring Road, faced enforcement action from Worthing Borough Council after being told it requires planning permission to continue operating and after a number of structures appeared without permission.

But members of the planning committee agreed that an enforcement notice should be a ‘last resort’ and the owner, Omar Rafique, has instead promised to apply for planning permission by the end of June.

During a meeting on Wednesday (25 May), he said he originally intended to open a pizzeria and bakery, but the business has had to adapt due to a number of challenges, such as not having a gas connection.

Karma Lounge logo

This means the business is operating more like a ‘small drinking establishment’ rather than a café and bakery, according to council officers – something that requires planning permission.

The committee heard how the business had been the subject of multiple noise complaints and enforcement action would have put restrictions in place to avoid this.

This included asking the business to close its outside area after 10pm and banning music outdoors as well as limiting the music indoors to background music.

One resident living nearby called for enforcement action ‘as soon as possible’ as they were concerned a noisy event, like two that had taken place previously, could take place again during the Jubilee bank holiday weekend.

Ward councillor Emma Taylor (Lab, Heene) claims she received complaints from ’30 individual residencies’ about the business which has been her ‘single biggest case load issue’ this year.

She said: “These residents are not even necessarily against a drinking establishment, as long as it’s run responsibly and in a controlled environment.

“It’s left them with a really bitter taste in their mouth.”

One resident complained that music playing through loud speakers their only recourse was to ‘get in the car and drive as far away as possible’.

But the same resident said that noise wasn’t a problem on a daily basis – only during events.

Mr Rafique said he ‘did not recognise’ comments made by the council’s environmental health officer which claimed the business could be in breach of its alcohol licence.

He explained that food was sometimes prepared off site which may be why drinking customers appeared not to have meals at the time.

Mr Rafique also said tables and chairs are taken in at 10pm. He admitted that, as some seats are attached to a wall outside, they can not be taken in but staff remind customers not to sit there at night.

And he believes they are a ‘responsible business’ employing 12 local young people and did not want conditions that would hinder its operation.

The business now has until the end of June to submit a planning application or an enforcement notice may be issued.

Speaking after the meeting, a Karma Lounge spokesperson said: “We were surprised and appalled that this action was ever brought in the first place.

“These same complainers were the same people who petitioned the neighbourhood to stop any development taking place.”

They called the proposed conditions ‘draconian’ and said the claims made in the council’s report were ‘unsupported by evidence’.