AN ASHTON pub has had its licence suspended for three months after breaking lockdown rules – and its joint-manager banned.
Top End Bar on Stamford Street was found to be serving people when it was meant to be closed after Prime Minister Boris Johnson ordered licensed premises to close because of the Covid-19 outbreak.
Top End Bar, Ashton-under-Lyne, Pic: Tameside Correspondent
Police and licensing officers from Tameside Council spotted the venue’s front gate was open as they drove past during Operation Gritstone, when they visited more than 200 premises, on April 3.
When they drove back round, the gate had been closed but they found joint-manager Sanjay Mistry holding a ‘business meeting’ inside.
Now Top End has been ordered to close for three months and Mr Mistry banned from being part of its operation after the authority wanted its licence revoked completely.
Councillor Dave Sweeton, chairman of Tameside Council’s liquor licensing panel, said: “It’s clear a serious breach took place and Tameside is not prepared to have them in the borough.
“The panel was satisfied there was a serious breach of the health protection regulations as the Top End Bar was open on April 3.
“It was of the view that given the serious nature of the incidents, that a period of suspension takes place of three months.
“And Sanjay Mistry is banned immediately from the premises. Anything to do with the premises, on the premises, we don’t want to see Sanjay Mistry as part of that business operation.”
The committee heard Mr Mistry was found inside the bar at about 5.15pm on April 3.
He assured officers he was holding a meeting with Nigel Thompson while lockdown restrictions were in place, while council and police also found Simon Neild, who lives above the venue, was also in there paying his rent and dropping off a joint of meat.
It was meant to be at sister Anita Mistry Jones’ house but she was at hospital with her son, who was admitted with gastroenteritis and severe dehydration.
And even the man himself admitted: “I’ve made an error by having the meeting at the pub.
“At no time has the pub ever been open. What can I say, I’m sorry it was a bad error of judgment. I’ve made a mistake, I’ll hold my hands up.”
In evidence, Michael Robinson, Tameside Council’s head of licensing, said: “As we walked over to the bar, I noticed two glasses and a half-empty bottle of purple coloured Bulmer’s fruit cider.
“I asked Mr Mistry who had been drinking in the bar and he told me that he had been drinking cider.
“Mr Mistry then approached me and said, ‘Here, smell my breath’ and proceeded to breathe directly into my face.
“CCTV footage showed Sanjay Mistry had been drinking with a male wearing a flat cap for at least one hour before we arrived.
“The male appeared to pay for his drinks and when we arrived hid his pint of beer underneath the table.”
PC Martin Thorley, of Greater Manchester Police, added: “There are some people that seem to think they’re invincible and that instructions don’t apply to them. This cannot be acceptable.”
Licensing consultant Tony Dales, representing Top End Bar, described the venue as a, ‘prosperous, busy but safe bar.’
He also assured that no alcohol was paid for and a £1 coin seen on CCTV Mr Thompson gave to Mr Mistry was in fact money for a weekly stake on the Irish Lottery.
And he added: “A decision was made for pub to be used for business meeting. The decision was made and it was a poor one. It’s a real catastrophic mistake, the mistake has been made.”
Nigel Thompson insisted the sight of him hiding alcohol on CCTV was him panicking and not wanting to make a situation worse.
He said: “I was there for a business meeting, I’ve a business in borough that deals with pub trade regarding sporting side of pub life, as well as a trophy business.
“We were discussing awards of business grants via the borough, a meeting of minds to discuss how to deal with those applications and talking about pool leagues.
“I was invited to have a drink and it was explained the beer would be thrown away.
“I panicked over the beer. I was aware it was putting petrol on a fire so I concealed it. I regret doing that, it was just to prevent situation appearing worse than it was.”
Despite Top End Bar’s protestations, Mr Robinson wanted the licence revoked.
He said: “It’s my opinion the management of the premises showed a flagrant disregard of both the coronavirus regulations and the licensing objectives.
“I feel that owning or managing a bar is not essential and they’re not considered to be key workers.
“I want responsible businesses in Tameside to see we’re taking action with premises that are flouting the rules and ultimately put lives at risk.”
Mrs Mistry Jones admitted: “If Sanjay made an error of judgment, I’ll accept this is the case. I feel the guidelines weren’t clear at the start of lockdown.”
But despite Mr Dales’ assertion that not allowing Mr Mistry to work would be too draconian, the committee issued the ban.