Proposals to serve alcohol and host evening events at Cambridge University Botanic Garden would be "totally inappropriate", residents have said.
The garden has applied to the city council for a premises licence allowing it to serve drink at "occasional" events until 11pm.
People living nearby have raised concerns about traffic and noise.
The university said events would take place far enough away not to cause problems. It will be decided on 13 May.
The application allows for alcohol to be served until 11pm Monday to Saturday and an hour earlier on Sundays. It also covers the venue for live music, theatre and dance productions.
The university said it expected most events to end by about 9pm and stressed any music would be non-amplified and sufficiently far within the garden's 16 hectares boundary not to cause disturbance to neighbours.
However, residents have written to the council's planning officers, saying: "We of course expect to see large numbers of visitors to the gardens and we do not complain.
"However, it is not an entertainment centre. It is an academic institution." Granting the licence would mean the garden had "strayed from its academic mission", they added.
Objectors suggested if events were only "occasional", the botanic garden should apply instead for temporary licences, as and when needed.
In its application, the university said it did not anticipate problems, but extra security would be in place for larger events and notices would be posted at exists asking visitors to respect nearby residents.