THE DIRECTOR of a Carmarthenshire care home who applied for a licence to serve alcohol said he was determined that residents had a chance to feel normal towards the end of their lives.
William James initially applied to serve alcohol until midnight at Gwernllwyn Care Home, Cross Hands, seven days a week but reduced it to 9pm following a meeting with licensing officers from Carmarthenshire Council and Dyfed-Powys Police.
He has now been granted a premises licence by a council licensing sub-committee. In addition to the 9pm deadline, alcohol can only be sold to care home residents or their guests and just in the ground floor restaurant area on Monday to Saturdays. But the restriction does not apply to Sundays, when the public can come in for a Sunday roast.
Mr James told the sub-committee that the bar at Gwernllwyn Care Home, Cross Hands, would not be open every night and that its use was intended for birthday parties and for Sunday lunch.
“I only need the licence to make the people (residents) feel that they are normal, and that we are not taking that away from them,” he said. “When everybody comes to that age, you feel abandoned and put into a room and forgotten about. I want the home to feel it’s another chapter in life.”
Some people living close to the care home objected to the licence application, although at that stage midnight was stipulated rather than the amended time of 9pm. They were worried that some people attending the bar would leave their cars overnight, causing difficulties.
One person said in an email to the council they remembered the care home’s former use as a nightclub, when “anti-social behaviour, criminality and drunken behaviour were commonplace each weekend”.
Two members of the public spoke at the licensing meeting to ask how care home staff would ensure that those served alcohol at the bar were in fact guests of residents. This was an important point – and one on which the sub-committee’s legal officer sought clarity – because Mr James had signed an amended application saying alcohol would only be served to residents and guests.
Mr James’s response didn’t seem entirely clear, but he said he would welcome non-guests on Sundays who wanted to see the home for themselves and have some lunch. He said he would not refuse them an alcoholic drink to go with their meal if they wanted one, but he accepted that the committee could decide otherwise.
Mr James added that he wanted to stick up for residents. “We’ve got to think about end of life because we are all going to be there,” he said. What was more normal, he said, than someone – in this case a care home resident – buying an alcoholic drink with Sunday lunch.
After retiring to deliberate, the sub-committee granted a licence for the sale of alcohol from Monday to Saturday, limited to care home residents or their guests. This limitation does not apply on Sundays.
Regulator Care Inspectorate Wales (CIW) visited Gwernllwyn Care Home in February 2022 and described it having a warm and homely feel, with residents and their families happy with the care and support they received.
Speaking to the Local Democracy Reporting Service, Mr James said only lager and wine would be sold, and that the idea was to encourage more mixing at the home on Sundays.
Asked what staff would do if a member of the public asked for several drinks on a Sunday, he said: “The drink only goes with the meal.”
Mr James also said a bowling alley and coffee shop – both open to the public as well as residents – would open soon at the home, along with an extension to increase the number of rooms from 42 to 68. More parking is also being provided.
One objector said they felt the care home “seems to be continually expanding and diversifying further from its core function”.