Decision due on rural pub’s licence after alleged lockdown breach

A rural village pub is set to have its licence reviewed after allegedly breaching lockdown measures.

Friday, 31st July 2020, 5:02 pm
Stills from a video submitted by residents, taken by the council as evidence and reproduced in council agenda papers

In August a panel of Rother District councillors is to review the licensing of the Red Lion Inn in Brede, in light of allegations that it breached the coronavirus lockdown one weekend in May.

According to the application, which has been brought by the council’s own environmental health team, the pub was found to be serving alcohol to a group of around 10 to 15 people on Friday, May 8.

The incident is described in detail in a witness statement from PC Jeffrey of Sussex Police, who attended the premises after a number of reports from village residents.

Stills from a video submitted by residents, taken by the council as evidence and reproduced in council agenda papers

In a witness statement included in council papers, PC Jeffery said: “On arrival it was clear to me that the premises was open and that alcohol was being consumed at the front of the premises.

“I can describe the scene as approximately 10 to 15 persons all sat outside of the premises, with the majority of these persons holding pints of beer. The group consisted mostly of middle-aged males who seemed surprised to see police attendance.

“Some of the patrons were seen to collect their beers and walk away before the officers had a chance to engage with them. I suspect that these people left immediately because they were fully aware what they were doing was against the Covid-19 legislation and prohibited.”

According to PC Jeffrey’s statement, the patrons told police officers they believed they had been following social distancing guidelines by remaining two metres apart and that they considered the gathering to be acceptable.

PC Jeffrey’s statement notes empty glasses and a table set up with “almost empty” trays of food near to the entrance to the pub.

PC Jeffrey goes on to describe a conversation with Natalie Campbell-Crabb, the pub’s Designated Premises Supervisor (DPS), and her partner Phillip Graham.

According to PC Jeffrey, the pair said the drinks had been served as part of an event raising funds for the NHS. 

PC Jeffrey said: “Both Campbell-Crabb and Graham acknowledged that they were fully aware the premises should have not been open or trading but they hosted the event as they didn’t want to see the beer go to waste [and] thought giving the beer away in return for a donation wasn’t a breach of the regulation.

“I advised Cambell-Crabb that as her patrons did not reside at the premises they were all liable to receive a Covid-19 fine but as the patrons had taken the advice to return to their home addresses no fines would be issued that afternoon.”

PC Jeffrey says they warned the pair that further trading or breaches would not be tolerated.

However, there were further complaints about the pub the following day (Saturday, May 9), leading to a second visit by Sussex Police, although no action was taken as a result.

According to council papers, Mrs Campbell-Crabb told police that no further breaches had occurred  on the Saturday as “only family members” were in the premises  and that they had brought their own alcohol.

On May 11, the pub was served with a prohibition notice, ordering the pub not to serve food or alcohol and to close the premises.

During the incidents the pub had been permitted to sell alcohol (as well as food and soft drinks), as long as social distancing measures were put in place and it was for consumption off-site (i.e. a takeaway).

Details of this guidance had been sent to the pub (and other premises across the district) in a letter from Rother District Council in April. 

In its application, Rother District Council’s environmental health team says the pub had breached its licensing duties, namely public safety and the prevention of crime and disorder.

In a statement, environmental health manager Una Kane said: “This was a planned and reckless act by the premises licence holder and the designated premises supervisor – Mrs Campbell-Crabb. 

“I therefore recommend the licensing panel to consider revoking the premises licence or removing the designated premises supervisor from the licence for not complying with the crime and disorder and public safety licensing objective.”

The application is set to be considered by a licensing panel on Friday, August 21.

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