Neighbours’ anger at Islington High Street cafe’s bid to sell ‘exquisite’ glasses of sake

A file image of sake on sale in a Japanese shop. A cafe off Camden Passage has applied for permissio

A file image of sake on sale in a Japanese shop. A cafe off Camden Passage has applied for permission to sell the drink to customers. Picture: Masayuki Igawa/Flickr/CC BY 2.0 - Credit: Archant

Cafes and restaurants selling booze in Camden Passage has become the archetypal Islington row.

This time, people are getting riled up about Japanese sake.

Seven homeowners in the Passage’s vicinity are trying to stop Islington Council giving Japanese cafe Kojima a licence to sell alcohol on the premises.

The shop is in Islington High Street, right before it merges into the famous antiques market – which many claim is becoming overpopulated with establishments selling booze.

Kojima is currently only able to sell sake, a fermented rice wine, to be drunk away from the premises. Niall McCann, a licensing agent writing to the council on behalf of Kojima, suggested business could flourish if customers were allowed to drink “this exquisite beverage” inside the shop.

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“One of the enquiries our client gets most often,” he said, “is whether customers can order a glass of sake with their cake or sandwich. They seem disappointed that sake is for off-sales only and reluctant to spend £30 to £85 on a bottle of something they have not tasted.

“Our client believes it would be very beneficial to the customer experience if it were able to serve glasses of sake in a café setting, to seated customers in a low-key peaceful environment where they can fully appreciate this exquisite beverage.”

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Mr McCann said sake by the glass would be unique in London, and added: “Our client wishes to foster a ‘tasting’ environment, with an emphasis on education and culture, all the while retaining the relaxed and peaceful atmosphere the café/shop currently enjoys.”

But the protesters aren’t convinced.

One said: “We are talking here about the cumulative impact on the area of another bar serving strong alcohol all day and well into the evening [it has applied for 11am to 9pm, Monday to Sunday] with no requirement that a proper meal be served with the drink.”

Another said: “Camden Passage is being overwhelmed by alcohol outlets. Licences seem to be granted without any regard for the residents or the few remaining traditional shopkeepers. Scant attention is paid to the Council’s own saturation policy.”

It’s set to be considered by the council’s licensing sub committee at a town hall meeting on Tuesday (6.30pm).

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