An unlicensed wedding reception at Rainhill Hall that kept residents up into the early hours happened due to an “innocent error”, the hotel firm’s solicitor has claimed.
The Grade II listed building, also known as Loyola Hall, was formerly a retreat for the Society of Jesuits, a religious order of the Catholic Church.
The site has now been transformed into a wedding and conference venue by Liverpool-based hotel firm, Signature Living.
A number of events have been held on the site prior to its full opening in February 2020.
On September 14, a wedding reception was held in a marquee in the grounds of the venue, which was unlicensed to sell alcohol and live music after 11pm.
Following the event, St Helens Council and Environmental Health both received noise complaints from residents.
In response, Signature Living applied to extend the finish time for all licensable activities to 1am Sunday to Thursday and 2am Friday to Saturday.
Several concerned residents spoke publicly about the unlicensed event at the licensing sub-committee where the new application was heard.
Ian Kaye, a resident of Bartholomew Close, accused Signature Living of treating residents with “contempt”.
“The music was at ridiculous levels,” Mr Kaye said.
“The prospect of having that, even until midnight, is unacceptable but beyond that unthinkable.
“To be honest, the placement of that tent, they must have known the noise that was coming out of that tent.
“I think they treated the local residents with contempt, and I wouldn’t trust them, quite frankly.”
John Brumfitt, from Chapel Lane, said: “For me, what happened in September was diabolical.
“They just didn’t have any regard for us whatsoever. We weren’t informed of the event that was going on and when it did happen it was just ridiculous.
“The noise levels were just far too high.”
Carl Bruder, a solicitor for the premises, claimed the event occurred due to an oversight caused by the event organiser leaving the business.
Mr Bruder said a temporary event notice (TEN) should have been applied for because the evening reception was to be held in the marquee.
However, the new event organiser had assumed this had been done by her predecessor, but this was not the case.
Mr Bruder assured councillors the incident was an “innocent error”.
He said Signature Living, which was founded by Lawrence Kenwright, have a “fantastic, blemish-free record”, and called the unlicensed event a “clear error of judgement”.
Mr Bruder said: “I don’t think it’s a situation where the tail should wag the dog here and their reputation be ruined for one event which they admit shouldn’t have been the case.
“It’s not the other way around where they blatantly failed to honour legislation and don’t particularly care for the community.”
Sue Wright, managing director for Signature Living, apologised to residents for the mistake.
Ms Wright said she wanted to “reach out” to residents to let them know she is available to discuss any issues or concerns at any point.
“We’d rather work with our local residents than work against people,” Ms Wright said.
“I think sometimes relationships can sour very quickly just through lack of communication and lack of talking.
“What I want to be able to do is move forward on a positive footing with the local community to make sure Rainhill Hall is an exciting and successful venue whilst embracing any concerns which the local resident have.
“And to make sure that, as much as possible, the minimisation of disruption to their lives, being on the circumference of that commercial site, is limited as appropriately as possible.”
While reviewing the new licensing application, Cllr Jeanie Bell said she had concerns over the length of time it took for the site’s Designated Premises Supervisor (DPS), Patricia Murray, to respond to previous correspondence from licensing regarding the September 14 event.
Cllr Bell said she would need to see evidence Signature Living are “fully engaged” with the licensing authority,
The Labour councillor also said she was “a bit concerned” Ms Murray, who she said is responsible for ensuring licensing conditions are adhered to, was not present at the meeting .
Mr Bruder said the site’s DPS did not attend as she was interviewing for an operations manager who will be more “hands on” with future licensing applications.
He added that a number of “weaknesses” identified at the site following the September 14 event by residents and Environmental Health will be addressed prior to its full opening next year.
Mr Bruder said Signature Living’s management has already indicated that they will not hold any further firework events at the site.
Carol Pollitt, scientific officer for environmental health, welcomed Signature Living’s commitment to undertake a full noise management plan prior to Rainhill Hall’s opening in 2020.
However, she said this should have already been provided up front.
Ms Pollitt said currently there is not enough information for Environmental Health be satisfied Signature Living can deliver events at the venue without causing a public nuisance.
After deliberating in private, councillors denied requests to extend the finishing time for all licensed activities from Sunday to Thursday to 1am and to extend the hours to 2am Friday to Saturday.
The licensing sub-committee agreed to extend the finishing time for all licensing activities until 1am Friday to Saturday.
The request to extend opening times to 1.30am Sunday to Thursday and 2.30am Friday to Saturday was denied.
However, councillors agreed to extend the opening hours to 1.30am Friday to Saturday only.
Several conditions were also attached to the new licensing agreement. Hotel residents will still be offered a 24-hour service.