A heated debate over Greggs’ right to trade into the early hours in central London, amid warnings it could cause a wave of crime and disorder, has been resolved.
Greggs said it could now open its Leicester Square flagship store until 2am from Thursday to Saturday and until midnight through the rest of the week after Westminster council allowed it to sell hot drinks, such as tea and coffee, as well as its sausage rolls, pizza slices and steak bakes, after an 11pm curfew.
Greggs said it had cancelled a three-day appeal hearing planned to start on Tuesday after reaching the agreement – although it falls short of its hopes of 24-hour trading.
The store will also not be allowed to sell food heated above ambient temperature, including potato wedges and chicken goujons, past 11pm, under a licence expected to be approved later this week.
The company was last summer refused a licence to open its store in Leicester Square between 11pm and 5am amid claims it could become a “hotspot for late-night disturbances and antisocial behaviour”.
Aicha Less, a councillor and the deputy leader of Westminster city council, said: “Greggs had originally applied for a licence in Leicester Square to sell hot food and hot drinks for 24 hours, Mondays to Sundays. This was refused by Westminster’s licensing subcommittee and Greggs appealed that decision.
“Based on the merits of this case, Westminster have come to an agreement with Greggs that works for everyone.”
The council said Greggs’ licence covered the sale of hot drinks, but not food kept hot, and was based on “significant conditions”, including the installation of CCTV at its store, the use of door supervisors and litter clearance.
Roisin Currie, the chief executive of Greggs, said the appeal had been cancelled because discussions with Westminster had “reached a good solution for both parties”. She said Greggs would not trade 24 hours a day but would be able to open “over the midnight cusp”.
Greggs does not need a licence to sell its sausage rolls and other bakes as they are made elsewhere and not kept hot in-store, and are allowed to cool down once baked.
However, it needs special permission from the local authority to sell hot food, including bacon baps, sausage breakfast rolls, chicken goujons and potato wedges, which are kept hot once cooked, as well as tea and coffee, between 11pm and 5am.
Greggs has previously said it chose not to open after 11pm until reaching the new agreement as customers could be confused if its full menu was not available.
Nearby competitors, including McDonald’s, are able to sell hot food into the early hours.
Greggs’ application for late-night trading was blocked by Westminster council after the Metropolitan police said fast-food premises operating after 11pm attracted those who had been drinking in pubs and bars nearby, with “the likely effect of an increase in crime and disorder in the area and an increased demand on police resources which are already stretched”.
Police said the fact that the outlet did not have seating would add to problems with dispersing crowds from around Leicester Square’s gardens.
Greggs revealed a 17% rise in underlying sales in the 19 weeks to 13 May. The company said sales of hot food were showing particularly strong growth, with evenings being the fastest-growing sales period.
Currie said Greggs was working hard to keep a lid on price rises as it had fixed the cost of energy and packaging for several months. She added that inflation continued to have an impact, with labour and commodity prices rising, and she expected costs to rise by up to 10% in the year ahead.