Licensing chiefs for Northumberland County Council spent a day and a half hearing arguments for and against the application by Italian eatery Rialto in Ponteland for a major outdoor expansion.
But the green light now paves the way for bosses to expand into an adjacent riverside site, taking the venue’s total capacity to almost 500 customers.
“The people in the village have supported me all my career and I don’t want them to be upset,” said restaurant boss Suna Miah. “Hopefully by next summer we will be ready to go, but there’s still a lot of ground work left to do.”
Rialto – the location of a 2018 “bonding” meal between Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley, then manager Rafa Benitez and the rest of the playing squad – had originally sought permission for live music and alcohol sales at the new outdoor area until midnight, seven days a week.
Restaurant bosses claimed ‘The Orchard’, as the addition is expected to be known, will include space for three “retail units”, three “food vendors” and six “market stalls”, as well as 152 seats, in a set up modelled on Altrincham Market, in Greater Manchester.
The scheme attracted more than 100 complaints from members of the public and claims of “mud” slinging by opponents.
But in a late concession, the application was amended, dropping a request for permission to stage live music and agreeing to limit capacity in the outdoor area to 350.
Together with the indoor space, this will allow up to 470 customers on site at a time.
The agreed licence also stated alcohol sales in the “external area” must stop at 11pm on Fridays and Saturdays and 10.30pm the rest of the week, while hot food survive must cease at 11.30pm.
According to a decision notice issued by the county council: “The [licensing committee] has taken into account that the applicant is an experienced licensed operator who has operated Rialto restaurant for over 20 years without any apparent issues or any undermining of the licensing objectives.
“The [licensing committee] is encouraged that the applicant has stated that they will be engaging with residents regarding the premises.”
James Harrison, Local Democracy Reporting Service