AN Old Town pub is now able to now sell booze and host live bands later in the evenings.

The Bell Hotel, in High Street, is able to open for longer, even though the new operator’s bid to continue until 2am was turned down by the council’s licensing committee.

The historic venue was shut for a year but re-opened three weeks ago under the management of the Quality Dining Group, which also runs two other pubs: the Great Western Hotel, in Newport Street, and the Fox and Hounds, in Wroughton.

Under its previous premises licence, The Bell had to stop the sale of alcohol and regulated entertainment, such as live bands and recorded music, at 10.30pm from Sunday to Wednesday, 11pm on Thursday, and at midnight on Friday and Saturday.

The new operator applied to extend this until 2am, seven days a week, but a licensing panel had to be held yesterday following objections from Wiltshire Police, the council’s environmental health department and residents.

Instead, the panel allowed the sale of alcohol and late night refreshments until midnight from Monday to Thursday, 1.30am on Friday and Saturday, and midnight on Sunday, with regulated entertainment permitted until 11pm from Monday to Thursday, 1am on Friday and Saturday, and 11pm on Sunday.

PC Andy Alexander, a police licensing officer, said that 11 out of the 15 venues in the that area of Old Town close between 1am and 2am, when there is a mass exodus to the taxi ranks and nearby fast food outlets, which can be flashpoints for drunken violence.

He said there had been no specific crime and disorder from The Bell with midnight closing time on peak days, but having another venue closing at 2am would stretch the resources of the emergency services.

He said: “The peak we’re talking about between 1am and 4am provides 52 per cent of all night time economy A&E records for the hospital and 59 per cent of our reported violent crime.

“That is a peak problem period and to create another late night licence can only make that worse.”

James Holland, an environmental health officer, said the provision of entertainment until 2am had the potential to cause noise nuisance at nearby homes, including in Charlotte Mews, and recommended that 11pm should be the limit.

He said he was concerned about entertainment in the pub’s external courtyard and requested that no live or recorded music was played in any outdoor space.

Several residents wrote to the council to express their concern about increased noise and Coun Brian Mattock (Con, Old Town) said some of them felt they would have to leave The Pinnacle building because noise affected them so much under the venue’s old operators.

The representatives from Quality Dining Group agreed to withdraw their proposal to have live music outside and stressed that work had already been undertaken to reduce the noise impact. They also said the venue was aimed at more mature customers.

General manager Mark Wylie said: “We are a hotel as well and noise pollution from our point of view is just as important for that. If we’re running a hotel, we can’t have hotel guests complaining about noise.”