PLANS for a new upmarket bar in Chester-le-Street offering a wide based range of drinks around gin culture have moved a step closer after a licence was granted for the premises.

Residents who objected to plans for a new bar at the former Relton Workingmen’s Club say their fears had been allayed after the owners made changes to the plans.

Local businessman Scott Walker and fellow director Mark Worthy were successful in getting a licence for The Distillery, in Red Rose Terrace.

Chester-le-Street Central Residents’ Association chairman Derek Briggs said: “We objected initially because of the history we have with licensed premises in the area. It hits a sore point.

“People were concerned we could end up with rowdy behaviour and there were about 40 objections.

“But we had a very good meeting with the owners and their solicitor.

“They listened to our points of view and the problems and we explained why there were so many objections.”

He added: “They explained that it was not the type of premises we were expecting and was going to be more upmarket establishment. We are quite happy with that.”

Following mediation with Durham Constabulary, Mr Scott agreed to amend the premises licence by adding additional conditions to the operating schedule.

They include the installation of a CCTV at the back of the premises, a reduction of the licensable hours and a restriction on the times bottle bins are emptied.

Giles McCourt, solicitor for Mr Walker, said: “This represents a significant investment. The plan is to bring a bespoke premises to Chester-le-Street.

“The concept will be an upmarket bar with a whole range of offers based around the gin culture, which is quite popular now.

“There will be afternoon teas, as well as specialist evenings with wine, whiskey and gin tasting - making it a better offer, something a bit different”.

There will be significant changes to the décor of the interior.

Mr McCourt added: “We met with the alcohol reduction unit of the police who gave us their full backing.

“We listened to the concerns of residents, who felt that closing time of 1am was not the best for the area, so we reduced those to midnight.”

He said : “We know that Wear Street is a bone of contention for residents and, while the Distillery is not in Wear Street,we will be putting a CCTV facing in that direction to help police tackle any anti-social behaviour.”

Mr McCourt said talks were underway with county council planning officers and it was hoped the premises will open for business in the next two to three weeks.