A HAUGHTON Green pub that hosted ‘lockdown lock-ins’ by letting people in through the back door for all-night parties and even karaoke sessions has been given another chance.
Customers were found hiding in an upstairs room at the Cock Hotel after police received complaints from a member of the public.
But investigations revealed there were several occasions in which the landlord served people when it was meant to have been shut because of Covid-19 regulations.
People were seen playing pool while drinking from cans, throwing them away and a barman pulling pints – at one stage, people even took part in karaoke!
Now the pub, on Two Trees Lane, has been told it has to change after licensing officials stopped short of shutting it for good.
Tameside Council’s Speakers Panel (Liquor Licensing) committee heard then landlord Michael Andrew, who has since been sacked by owners EI Group, first told police that he was having a drink with his lodger while watching the football on November 25.
At the time, the borough had the eighth highest rate of coronavirus cases in the country, more than 1,200 a week.
But a trip upstairs by an officer found four people hiding.
Review of CCTV also found the pub had been open via the back door and trading on a number of occasions throughout the lockdown period.
It also showed it had operated in breach of regulations on November 4, when Greater Manchester was under tier two by serving people alcohol without selling food – people had even been smoking inside the building.
Andrew purchased his own barrels of beer to sell to customers during the lockdown and the premises was operated by invite only to regular customers.
PC Martin Thorley of Greater Manchester Police told the hearing Mr Andrew – who still lives there because of a moratorium on evictions – insisted the breach that alerted them was a one off, claiming he was lonely and opened to have company.
But he found the Carling, Stella Artois and John Smith’s lines were full of the 11 gallons of each Andrew bought for a total of £375. And a £1,000 fixed penalty notice (FPN) given to 43-year-old Mr Andrew for holding the gathering has not yet been paid. Three others of £200 have been.
CCTV footage from bodycams worn by officers was played to the meeting showed Mr Andrew saying: “I’ve had friends coming in to say hello.” Then when challenged on that, he added: “It’s not an indoor gathering.”
An officer then told him about the regulations: “I don’t like them but they’re here to stop us getting killed.” One who went upstairs said to the people upstairs: “So, what are we all doing here tonight then?”
PC Thorley told the meeting: “The manner in which these premises were being managed fell short of what was expected.
“The landlord put the welfare of staff, customers, attending police and council officers and the wider public in danger of contracting a potentially fatal illness. “The behaviour and actions were totally irresponsible. There’s a clear risk to public health during this pandemic.
“Hosting a gathering in these times is not only dangerous to those present but also dangerous to those whose duty it is to investigate these issues.
“And the fact three FPNs, in particular the one issued to the landlord, remain unpaid, shows his disregard for the law.”
However, head of the Speakers Panel (Liquor Licensing) committee, Cllr Dave Sweeton, did not revoke the Cock Hotel’s licence.
Instead EI’s decision to remove Andrew quickly saved it from closure, with several increased conditions being imposed.
These include vetting of any future landlords by Tameside Council’s licensing department and the police, no live music outside or anywhere on the premises after 11pm.
The Cock Hotel’s beer garden cannot be used after 11pm and no under-16s are allowed on the premises after 7pm.
EI Group’s solicitor Richard Taylor said: “As far as we were concerned he was a decent operator, but….
“Within an hour of us being told by police, Mr Andrew had been removed as landlord, his tenancy had been terminated and he’s been served with an eviction notice.
“He’ll have nothing to do with these premises moving forward.
“There’s very, very few good things to come out of this review. One of them is that the CCTV is so good because it is very clear and effectively Mr Andrew has been hoisted by the CCTV petard.
“It’s absolutely something we would not expect from any of our tenants and what we’ve done is remove him as the problem.”