BRAINS behind a restaurant’s bid for a major outdoor expansion made late concessions in an attempt to secure permission for the scheme.

Bosses at Rialto, in Ponteland, are seeking a licence for a bar and seating area at the back of the site.

And as chiefs at Northumberland County Council prepared to rule on the application, they were told the business would be willing to accept limits on customer numbers, as well as scrapping a request to hold live music performances.

“The proposal is not involving a container park, a festival site, or a [German-style] bierkeller, that is not what we intend doing,” lawyer Richard Arnot, representing Rialto owner Sunah Miah, told the local authority’s licensing hearing.

“It will be a family friendly venue, it will have lots of different types of activities going on in it, it will be a positive addition to Ponteland.

“[Critics say] it will inevitably be wet-led, a vertical drinking venue, but that simply is not borne out by what we’ve described to you.”

Bosses at Rialto – which was chosen for a 2018 “bonding” meal between Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley, then manager Rafa Benitez and the rest of the playing squad – had originally sought permission for live music and alcohol sales at the new outdoor area until midnight, seven days a week.

The scheme was described as a “Victorian market”, modelled on Altrincham Market, in Greater Manchester.

At the concluding session of a two-day hearing on the plans, Arnot said his client would be willing to “forgo” a licence to stage live music and accept a condition limiting capacity to 350 people at a time – less than half the 800 some opponents had predicted could squeeze in at peak times.

Some were unconvinced, however, with Chris Grunert, representing the Northumberland Pub Co., which runs Ponteland’s Blackbird Inn, claiming the application “could have been drawn on the back of a fag packet”.

He added: “The hasty amendments that have been coming out, even during the course of the [licensing hearing] are thin, superficial attempts to persuade the committee that issues raised by residents and trade objectors can and will be dealt with.

“The way that application keeps moving and flowing is a sign the applicant is ducking and diving, trying simply to say things to appease the committee and do not reflect their true intentions.”

Following summing up, panel chairman Coun. James Hutchinson said he and his colleagues faced a “tricky” decision, which would be issued within five working days.