Covid-19 breach Higham Ferrers pub asks for leniency because of 'unprecedented times'

The Green Dragon Hotel could face a ban on loud music after massive crowds gathered and social distancing went out the window on July 4 reopening day

Wednesday, 26th August 2020, 5:04 pm
Local residents say the pub has been causing a nuisance for some time.

A Higham Ferrers pub facing stricter licensing conditions after flouting covid-19 safety rules and packing in the punters says it should be given some leniency due to the ‘unprecedented times’.

A 999 call was made by council officers who feared for their safety after being threatened by some drinkers at the Green Dragon Hotel on July 4 on the first day of pub re-openings.

They witnessed young revellers queuing ten deep at the outside bar, sitting closely together at tables and bar staff working without personal protective equipment. It was estimated up to 200 people were packed into the College Street venue.

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The premises, which Northants’ Police’s licensing officer David Bryan called the ‘county’s most problematic premises’ on July 4, was brought before a licensing hearing this afternoon (Aug 26) for a series of stricter licensing conditions to be considered. This could involve banning outside music, having more door staff and controlling customer numbers.

However the Green Dragon Hotel’s solicitor Melissa Tony argued that the pub should not have more conditions applied as it was a disproportionate response, but rather should be able to work with the council’s licensing department to resolve issues.

She admitted the pub had failed to put in appropriate measures but said: “I seek to remind everybody that obviously this was the first day of re-opening and nobody knew what it was going to look like. This was going to be a re-opening that we have all never experienced before and so some leniency should be given to these premises.”

She added: “I’m hoping conditions are not necessary to be attached but a more fluid, policy based working relationship would be more productive.”

The solicitor said the pub’s designated premises supervisor Linda Morgan had struggled to adjust to the covid measures required on re-opening. She argued that the venue had made changes since July 4 and had complied with two improvement notices served on it by East Northants Council’s environmental health officer Adam Grench as well as a community protection notice.

She said the six days from the time of the improvement notices to a premises review being applied for was not adequate time for the Green Dragon to have tested its commitment to improving.

At the licensing hearing local residents gave testimony about the nuisance they say the popular pub has been causing the local community over a number of years.

One said they were glad the incident on July 4 had happened because ‘at least someone is now taking note of what is going on’.

Another said: “It is naive to think the 4th July was a one off thing. We have had this for years.”

And a nearby local who said the noise levels from the pub were at times unbearable said: “We as a family do not feel safe in our house. Since re-opening not one member has been out in the garden. That can’t be right.”

Licensing officer Rita Groves told the licensing panel she was shocked and disappointed by what had happened on July 4.

She said she and her team had contacted every pub in East Northants before the lockdown re-opening and she had received reassurance from the venue that all was in hand.

She said: “I spoke to Linda Morgan. She stated that she had everything under control. That she had gone over and above and her risk assessment had been done. The premises was not one of the ones on my radar because she seemed confident.”

However then she started to receive information that a beach party had been planned for July 4, but this was denied by the venue.

Rita Groves said the incident was ‘far more serious than any other complaint I have ever dealt with’ and had warranted intervention from a police superintendent.

She said consideration should be given whether Mrs Morgan should still be able to hold a DPS position.

After hearing five-and-a-half hours of evidence the panel retired to make its decision which will be made public in five days.

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