Langley Moor soft play gets permission to serve alcohol

The owner of the children’s soft play center has good reason to raise a glass after he obtained permission to sell alcohol to parents.

Craig Lynch said he wants parents to enjoy a pint or glass of wine with a home-cooked meal while their kids burn energy at Langley Moore’s Fun Zone.

He told council members: “We have a good reputation for our food and we are getting more people.

“We get a lot of requests from parents saying, ‘We can come here, the kids can play, we can spend time together, have a great meal. It would be nice to have a drink, a pint or a glass of wine.

“What we’re trying to get here is where families come in.

Craig Lynch, owner of the Fun Zone soft play center in Langley Moore, outside County Hall in Durham after his application for an alcohol license was approved. Photo: Gareth Lightfoot.

“Nobody goes to soft plays for food, yet. We try to do something different with my pub and restaurant background.

“People seem to come in and enjoy it. We’re busy and just put another string in the bow if we can.”

“There is a demand for it. People want to come in and have some drinks and go home.”

Durham County Council has been asked to obtain an alcohol license for its soft play center at the Skillion Business Center in the Littleburn Industrial Estate.

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Brandon and Bechoteles Parish Council objected with concerns that sales of alcoholic beverages “directly put children at risk for alcohol-related misbehavior”.

“We are concerned that play equipment will become more attractive to adults once their inhibitions are lowered due to alcohol consumption, and they may enter the play area and cause harm to children used,” they said in a statement.

Northern Echo: Fun Zone at Langley Moore.  Photo: Fun Zone.Fun Zone at Langley Moore. Photo: Fun Zone.

“We have significant concerns about this and do not feel it is an appropriate place to obtain a license,” Priscilla Elmer of the parish council told the licensing subcommittee.

She said that Fun Zone, unlike a pub with children’s facilities, has soft play as its main business: “We didn’t feel that combining that with on-premises selling alcohol while operating as a soft play center was appropriate or wise.

“We almost instinctively felt it didn’t look like a happy combination.”

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She said their concerns are supported by public health research on children’s attitudes, being in such places and thinking that “alcohol is what is necessary to have fun.”

She wondered if the center would enforce a “zero tolerance” policy by having “guards at the door”.

Mr Lynch replied: “That’s not what we’re looking for.

“There will be no bar as such. There will be two drafts, which I can hide away. There will be no souls on display, and there will be no optics.

“After 23 years of working in the license trade in bars and nightclubs across the country, the last thing I want to do right now is a bar.”

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Drinks will only be served with food and in plastic cups, people are not allowed into the center without children, soft toys are in two-hour sessions at peak times.

Mr. Lynch said people couldn’t come and drink for long periods: “It won’t happen. I won’t allow it.

“There will be no chance of people getting drunk.

Northern Echo: Fun Zone at Langley Moore.  Photo: Fun Zone.Fun Zone at Langley Moore. Photo: Fun Zone.

“There will be no queue of men. Food will be taken to the tables, as will the drinks.

“We are not a restaurant. We are a soft game site that serves good food.

“We’ve been trading for a year now. We’re starting to make some progress. We’re just trying to add more to it.”

Applicants said drinking will not be promoted, adults are not allowed in play areas, protection and safety are paramount, and the center has undergone successful inspections.

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“I just promise it will run properly,” Lynch added. “There will be absolutely no problems.”

“I have a proven track record of managing secure environments.”

The Licensing Committee approved the application with conditions.

Lynch then said, “I’m over the moon.”

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