Shoreditch restaurant’s alcohol bid champions ‘the love of reading’ - but opponents slam concept they say ‘masks a bar’

PUBLISHED: 07:00 26 February 2019

"Below the noisy roads is hidden a quiet space to unwind. Not only is it warm and homely, but boasts a huge range of reading material from fiction to non-fiction, romance, thrillers, and many more genres of interest," states the licensing application for the Grapevine


An Italian restaurant’s application for a new alcohol licence has been given short shrift by opponents, sceptical about its claims it will “promote the love of reading”.

"Whilst we appreciate the hectic day to day life one leads, we are proud to present our unique traditional reading room nestled in the busy streets of Shoreditch," states the licensing application for the Grapevine.

In her application to sell wine at the Grapevine in Shoreditch High Street, Giavanna Hussain has bolstered her ‘innovative concept’ to ‘pair books with wine, coffee and food’ in a ‘traditional reading room nestled in the busy streets of Shoreditch’.

“We are excited to bring you back to the beginnings of a good hearty book, guaranteed to lower stress levels and transport you to a much needed ‘me time’,” states the application to sell alcohol until 11pm, which boasts of partnerships with charities like the Book Trust and Read Easy Hackney.

Giovanna, who is also behind Siegfried in Hoxton, the Rocksteady in Dalston, and the Cornershop in Shoreditch - told the Gazette: “I noticed in the area a lot of good bookshops have closed, but you can come here, leave a deposit for £3, and borrow a book.”

She added: “I realise this area is highly dense with drinking venues, but there is no room for blaming others for what’s going on if you are trying to do something different for what we are hoping would be an educational experience. At the end of the day it has to be a viable business.”

Comments made by opponents ahead of a licensing sub-committee meeting today are dismissive of the idea.

“An application for an alcohol licence again for 124 Shoreditch High Street!” said one person. “They have been turned down before, and nothing has changed in the meantime.”

“Whether it’s masked as a book reading club, poetry club, painting club, cultural appreciation society for cultured people, it’s all the same game,” said another.

“The fact remains most will turn a poetry club after a few months into a bar, WHICH WE HAVE WAY TOO MANY FOR THIS AREA ALREADY, ENOUGH!

“We are fed up with loud anti-social behaviour, vomit on our doorsteps at 4am, noise and attracting buskers with electric amplifiers at 4am in the morning, waking us up. We don’t need more alcoholic venues in Shoreditch.”

Another person referred to the murder of Zakaria Bukar Sharif Ali in November: “It saddens me that less than three months after a young man was fatally stabbed just 20 metres away from this bar the council is even considering extending alcoholic licenses to any bar in the area.”

The restaurant lies in the Shoreditch Special Policy Area (SPA), where councillors introduced stricter rules in July.

“Core” midnight weekend curfews have been brought in for all new venues and a 10pm cut-off for outside drinking.

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