Archbishop backs ‘rowdy’ nightspot Elysée

As restaurant faces licensing review, Greek community leaders outline its cultural importance

Published: August 25, 2011

GETTING tough with a popular Greek restaurant in Fitzrovia over its licence would be akin to penalising a venue as well regarded as the Cavern Club in Liverpool or Ronnie Scott’s in Soho.

This is the warning from an academic who has written to the Town Hall urging for calm treatment towards Elysée, a venue that re-opened in Percy Street last year.

Its operations has split the neighbourhood, with residents and traders disagreeing over its ability to maintain control over late-night customers and noise.

One group of objectors upset by late disturbances have successfully called for a licence review, which means councillors will tonight (Thursday) decide whether Elysée’s activities should be curbed.

The pack of evidence calling for tighter controls includes a homemade dossier by one neighbour who has documented activity outside the venue in the early hours with covert photos and videos. They show images of partygoers apparently urinating in doorways and throwing up in the street. Animated conversations and playfights are said to keep residents awake into the small hours.

But the review has seen Elysée’s supporters rush to its defence.

Archbishop Gregorios of Thyateira and Great Britain said in a letter to the Town Hall that “many of my disciples entertain themselves honourably prior to and after midnight at Elysée”.

He added: “Let me assure you that the Elysée is an institution for our community which perpetuates the culture of Greek ethics.”

And Dr Klearchos Kyriakides, a senior lecturer at the University of Hertfordshire, wrote to outline the importance he thinks Greek families in London attach to Elysée.

“I can testify to the enduring status of the Elysée as an institution in Fitzrovia, as a pillar of the Greek community in London, and as an iconic venture in the history of traditional Greek music,” he said. “By way of analogy, followers of Greek music regard the Elysée in the way that jazz fans cherish Ronnie Scott’s in Soho or that Beatles’ fans revere The Cavern in Liverpool.”

Dr Kyriakides said licensers needed to understand the importance of after-dinner music, adding that it “can be grasped if one reads The Odyssey where Homer writes that ‘as soon as they [ie, the suitors] had had enough to eat and drink they wanted music and dancing which are the crowning embellishments of a banquet’.”

He added: “The Elysée reflects this age-old approach to entertainment... It is a part of a consortium going back to antiquity.”

There have been warm letters from other businesses in the street and a family who live above the restaurant said: “I would like to inform you that the headteachers of all my children have never complained that any of the children go to school sleepy or tired.”

But a list of letter writers have a different opinion, claiming they have lost their “right to sleep”. Eighteen DVDs of recordings have been sent for review.

“Many of the videos were shot in the middle of the night at 3am or 4am etc when the person taking the videos had been woken from a deep sleep by shouting or some other disturbance in the street caused by the patrons or other operations of Elysee,” said the application, which says it is representing residents in Percy Street.

The diary of incidents include regular sightings of people staggering around drunk and urinating or being sick in the street.

Complainants argue that the venue has changed from a restaurant where alcohol is served with lunches and dinners to a destination nightspot where “vertical drinking” takes place. The review application said: “The effect of diminished food consumption is that clients become more rowdy more quickly.”

Objectors have recommended a series of remedies including closing the roof terrace and upstairs bar earlier, shorter hours and more controls in front of the restaurant.


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