A new seafood cafe and bar is set to open in the centre of Bath after getting permission to install an al fresco dining area outside.
Local man Roger Payne, who also runs Japanese restaurant Robun and pub the Griffin in the city, said he is “excited” to open Flute — his latest venture in the city. The seafood restaurant on George Street will open on Wednesday October 26, in time for its first diners to enjoy breakfast at the new place.
The restaurant will have tables and chairs on the pavement in front, as well as a lounge room at the rear for people more after drinks and nibbles than dining. The establishment will feature fish from Wing of St Mawes and art by Penzance artist Sarah Bell. Mr Payne said Flute would offer: “Art on the walls, art on the plate, and art in the glass.”
Flute is just a few doors down from Mr Payne’s Robun restaurant, located opposite the former Loch Fyne fish restaurant which closed in 2020. Since it closed, Mr Payne said: “We haven’t had a seafood restaurant this end of town.”
But the location led to a challenge from neighbours and — less than a week before Flute is set to open to customers — Mr Payne had to defend his plans against claims that the outdoor seating would create a “safety hazard.”
Five members of the public, local councillor Paul Roper, and highways officers at Bath and North East Somerset Council raised objections to the proposed seating outside Flute, which would take up space on the pavement near a busy pelican crossing across George Street — a major route for tourists heading between the city centre and Circus and Royal Crescent. Highways officers then withdrew their objection after the plans were amended to just four tables and ten chairs, surrounded by barriers.
But at a hearing over the outdoor seating before Bath and North East Somerset Council’s licensing subcommittee on October 19, Malcolm Baldwin who chairs the Circus Area Residents Association said that the seating area should be reduced further, to just two tables with two chairs each.
He said that, despite being supportive of businesses in the area, residents — including those with disabilities — had raised concerns about accessibility of the pelican crossing if the planned outdoor seating was installed. He warned it was already a busy location with lots of pedestrians and sometimes vehicles reversing. Mr Baldwin said: “It will create a significant safety hazard.”
Mr Payne and solicitor Piers Warne said that people mostly did not usually walk across that part of the pavement already, and there was outdoor seating on many narrower roads in Bath. They added that barriers around the seating would prevent it “bleeding out” into a wider area on the pavement and taking up more space.
After three hours of hearing and deliberations, councillors approved Mr Payne’s plans for four tables outside Flute as he had submitted.