Plans for a new VIP hospitality suite at Stamford Bridge have moved a step closer despite residents’ concerns that their street is being used as a "car park" by VIPs.
Residents had opposed the granting of a licence, claiming that VIPs visiting the grounds, including the former King of Spain and the US Vice President’s husband, have already caused significant disruption.
But at a licensing hearing on Wednesday night, councillors approved the sale of alcohol at the venue, moving the plans a step further.
The club still needs to seek planning permission to turn its former gym into the suite, which would cost between £280 - £670 per person. It would have a capacity of 660 people.
Speaking in opposition, local resident James Hirst said of the visits: "It creates traffic mayhem and danger. The problem is, that all of this is also aggravated by VIP visits from the King of Spain, and also Kamala Harris’s husband, and they come along with their security details.”
Fellow resident Charlotte Dexter added: “Only last week, the Vice President of the US’s husband, the Second Gentleman of the USA, was there with an unbelievable police convoy.
“I mean, the police are complicit in using our road for Chelsea’s fans and Chelsea’s VIPs.”
Doug Emhoff visited the ground on November 1 as part of the club’s ‘No to Hate’ campaign. Residents claimed his security detail blocked a residential road nearby for two hours as a result.
But representing Chelsea, solicitor Matthew Phipps said it was "right" the club had visits from celebrities.
He said: "For a club of international significance, having dignitaries where there are significant security measures that will have to be undertaken, is not I’m afraid, unexpected, and there’s inconvenience associated with that, just as there would be if we had a royal visit and we’ve had those in the past.”
The club said the proposed suite would be a “lower mid-level” offering compared to its more elite options which can cost nearly £10,000.
He added: “I think it’s fair to say that neither the ‘Second Gentleman’ nor the King of Spain are the target market for the Rose and Ball.”
Those living nearby had also raised fears that existing problems with “urination, defecation, littering, and drugs being consumed” would worsen because fans using the suite would get drunk.
Counsel representing some residents, Gareth Hughes, said: “The customers are going to want to get their money’s worth, if you’ve paid £280, £670 a ticket for all you can drink, you’re almost certainly going to take advantage of that offer, and we say, it's drink as much as you can in the time given.”
But Mr Phipps said the hospitality suite would be just one among 26 within the club, and there was nothing to suggest these were causing an issue.
He said the suite would only be open to ticket holders for three hours and that measures would be taken to minimise disruption.
Hammersmith and Fulham Council licensing panel chair Mercy Umeh said the licence was approved for three hour periods around a match, between 10am and midnight.