TAMESIDE Council has revoked the licence of a Mossley pub found to be serving alcohol in breach of lockdown regulations.
Police found a party for about 30 people going on in The Billy Goat on March 21, after Prime Minister Boris Johnson said licensed premises should be closed.
A hearing of the council’s liquor licensing panel heard designated premises supervisor (DPS) Kathleen O’Neil started serving again before officers even reached their car after ordering her to shut on the first time they attended.
Now after hearing from licensee and leaseholder Victor Bowers that revocation would mean ‘there’s going to be five people with nowhere to live’ because of the terms of the lease, the panel decided to strip the licence from the Stockport Road establishment.
The authority’s head of licensing, Michael Robinson, revealed in evidence Mr Bowers and Ms O’Neil told him they ‘did not believe the coronavirus outbreak was as bad as had been reported.’
He also said Mr Bowers told him he thinks coronavirus is: “Just bad flu.”
The hearing was told the issues started at 2.30pm on Saturday, March 21, when police spotted a large number of cars in the Billy Goat’s car park and condensation on the windows.
On closer inspection, officers spotted a woman crouching down in the kitchen.
Ms O’Neil, who said the group was a birthday party for a regular called Martin, admitted when asked she was serving alcohol.
She was ordered to get customers out but before officers had even returned to their car, she started serving again, leading them to return 25 minutes later.
As a police car pulled into the car park, customers began to leave but Ms O’Neil’s family remained in place and she was caught on camera serving them again after officers left for the second time.
Police said Mr Bowers told them the party could not be cancelled but agreed the Billy Goat should not have been open.
In a statement, he said: “At the time I was recovering from cancer. I’m not making excuses but all the pressure was put on Kath. It was under pressure that Kath opened but no-one knew how serious it was.”
Ms O’Neil admitted her behaviour was ‘stupid’ and ‘irresponsible’ as she didn’t realise the seriousness of what was going on – she also suggested removing her personal licence rather than the pub’s.
But an emotional Mr Bowers asked for leniency as, ‘no-one has ever been through this.’
He added the reason why there had been the majority previous noise complaints was because of ‘a lady who lives about 300 metres away who used to open her window in summer and on purpose listened.’
“Those complaints were because she didn’t want a pub there,” he added. “But the pub’s been there since 1760.
“All it was was people talking in the beer garden, nothing else. The pub has been run very well with very few problems.
“It’s built up with 90 per cent being locals, most of whom are of an older age and live on the caravan park for over-55s.
“The only place they feel safe is The Billy Goat. They don’t feel safe anywhere else. They rely on the pub for that.”
However, Mr Bowers’ pleas fell on deaf ears as the licence was revoked.
Head of the committee, Cllr Dave Sweeton, said: “The panel was satisfied that on the evidence, there was a serious and flagrant breach of the health protection regulations that came into force on March 21 as The Billy Goat pub was open and trading with a group of approximately 30 people in a very enclosed licensable premises.
“Given the serious nature of the incidents and the history of issues at the premises, the panel as not able to provide that the premises would comply with the licensing legislation.
“There have been numerous previous incidents of concern and this has to be viewed as the most serious of breaches.
“Given the likelihood of a potential second wave, the panel was very much of the conclusion there are serious reservations in the competence of the management.
“It didn’t think given the circumstances and the history, that other steps were appropriate.”