LARK Lane institution Keith's Wine Bar today hung on to its weekend 2am licence - but at a price.

The city council’s Licensing Committee insisted that  two bouncers must work on the door after 9pm until closing time on Fridays and Saturdays.

You would imagine World War III had broken out at Keith’s, but nothing could be further from the truth

On other nights, "Cinderella rules" have been imposed.  No  customers will be allowed in once the bar closes at midnight and those already in the bar will have to leave by 12-30am.

Owner and licensee Keith Haggis welcomed the committee’s decision to leave the opening hours unaltered in the face of a police bid to see the licence amended to last orders by 11pm seven nights a week.

However, he told Liverpool Confidential: “I welcome the committee’s decision to leave our opening hours as they are. But as I told the councillors, I have never been a fan of doormen on duty at Keith’s.  For 36 years we have operated successfully and dealt with any situation in our own unique way by being tactful with people.  

"From the reports of the police you would imagine World War III had broken out at Keith’s, but nothing could be further from the truth.

He added: "I have always fully co-operated with the police for the sake of good social order along Lark Lane, and it seems incidents that did not even originate in our bar are being linked to Keith’s.  There has not been a single response from any of our councillors, our active community association or from any of our local residents.”

Keith HaggisKeith Haggis prefers a tactful
Mr Haggis now has 21 days to accept the new conditions or challenge them in the magistrates court. He will take advice before deciding how to proceed.

During his evidence to the committee, he cited examples of violence at or near other Lark Lane premises where door staff are employed.

Community Inspector Stuart Quirk  based at Admiral Street said he accepted Keith’s Wine Bar was integral to the fabric of Lark Lane, but in the opinion of the police a 2am licence was too long. Only one other bar in the lane, The Lodge (the former Masonic pub), has a 2am licence. He told the committee, chaired by Cllr Roy Gladden, that the application was not a "backdoor way" of drawing back licensing hours in the Lark Lane area.

During the hearing it was disclosed a planning condition was imposed on Keith’s when permission was originally granted in 1976, restricting the serving time to 11pm and requiring all customers to leave by 11.30pm.

Mr Haggis told the committee he attended a neighbourhood meeting with the police when the question of the planning condition was raised.

Keith's Lark LanePic and main pic thanks
to Lark lane Guide 
Within days he has been notified of the police intention to seek a review of the opening hours to mirror the planning condition, and he also received a note from the planning department it intended to consider enforcement order if the place did not close by 11-30pm.

Cllr Gladden said planning matters were nothing to do with the licensing issue before the committee. However the committee was told Keith Haggis has now submitted an application for a certificate of lawfulness.

If he can prove the wine bar has been operating beyond the 11.30pm close down time for 10 years or more, the certificate will be issued  to override the old planning condition.

Added Keith Haggis: “Keith’s is as safe as anywhere. We have people coming into our bar from all over the world. People describe our place as the home of café society in Liverpool.”

Announcing the committee’s decision, Cllr Roy Gladden said: “We believe violence has taken place there. We also believe the measures we have imposed will help resolve some of the problems.”