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TERROR AND HORROR: Pub licence revoked by councillors

TERROR AND HORROR: Pub licence revoked by councillors

Image: LDRS

A Bristol pub that caused residents “absolute sheer terror and horror” has had its licence revoked by councillors.

The Bull Inn in Crews Hole was shut down on the request of the city council’s neighbourhood enforcement team (NET) backed by the police who say officers spend a disproportionate amount of time there dealing with disorder, nuisance and reports of mass brawls and threats to cut throats.

Some neighbours have even moved house to get away from the 118-year-old pub, while many who remain no longer approach the manager Steve Aldom for fear of reprisals and verbal abuse, Bristol City Council licensing sub-committee heard.

The beat team police sergeant told the hearing on Thursday, August 5, Mr Aldom was rude, angry and swore at officers called to incidents, while music was actually turned up after residents complained about noise, the panel at City Hall was told.

Two fines of £1,000 and £2,000 for repeated Covid breaches since lockdown eased in April have not been paid, councillors heard.

But tenant Mr Aldom and business partner Ian Morrey, the premises licence holder, insisted they ran a much-loved community pub which had been the victim of malicious and fabricated reports to police of dozens of people fighting.

Regulars submitted a petition and told the hearing it should be saved.

But other residents and the authorities told a very different story.

NET brought the review on the grounds that the licensing objectives of public safety and the prevention of crime and disorder and public nuisance were being undermined.

Bristol City Council senior enforcement officer Steve Eyers said late-night drunkenness and rowdy behaviour over a sustained period had “required a lot of attention from NET, public health and the police”.

“The Bull is very poorly managed with issues of antisocial behaviour including patrons shouting and urinating against residents’ fences and in their gardens,” he said.

“Litter has increased around the premises and drugs paraphernalia, glasses and bottles have been found in streets and gardens.

“The Bull Inn has repeatedly played loud music despite requests from residents to turn it down.

“Residents feel they can no longer approach Steve Aldom due to his aggressive reactions when they raise concerns – they feel threatened by him and get abused by patrons.

“Despite numerous visits from NET there has been no improvement in the behaviour of patrons.

“The pub has continued to breach Covid regulations, often being overcrowded on our visits, with no table service evident, serving customers at the bar with little regard to patrons wearing face masks and little use of NHS Track and Trace.

“NET and public health throughout this whole procedure have tried to support him as much as we can.

“We have gone out of our way and spent a great deal of time at the Bull giving guidance, trying to help him do the right thing.

“Unfortunately, what he agrees to and what he does are totally different things, which is the reason we have had to come to this review.

“The premises licence should be revoked.”

Mr Eyers said the manager ran the pub, in Crews Hole Road, despite Mr Morrey being the licensee and designated premises supervisor and that only Mr Aldom had attended meetings with NET and police to discuss concerns.

Eastville ward Cllr Lorraine Francis, who lives near the pub, said she had lodged complaints with the council about “absolutely appalling behaviour” since it reopened in 2017.

She said: “My next-door neighbour has moved out as a direct result of the impact of the pub.

“There has been an escalation in antisocial behaviour and noise.

“It’s not a case of disgruntled neighbours opposing a pub, it’s the absolute sheer terror and horror being experienced by residents because of the pub.”

Residents submitted hours of audio, video and photographs as evidence.

Beat team Sgt Maz Collacott said: “I’m really concerned about the Bull, not just for the massive impact on residents but for us, as a police force, the resources have been huge.”

She said Mr Aldom was “very aggressive, angry, really rude and swearing at our staff”.

Avon & Somerset Police licensing officer Louise Mowbray said there was a 60 per cent rise in calls to the force about The Bull Inn in 2020 and 2021 compared with 2016-19, even though lockdown meant it was closed for much of that period.

She said: “In August 2020 there was a report of noise and swearing and threats were made to the informant to hit them with a baseball bat.

“Music was reported as ‘pumping’ and extremely loud, a man on the door said he was a bouncer but had no licence, we’ve had reports of drugs being smoked outside the premises, people using gas canisters, underage children drinking alcohol and smoking cannabis in the back garden, people fighting, threats to cut throats and smashing glasses.

“On both occasions I have attended the premises, Mr Aldom has been unable to use the CCTV.

“Police have had to remain there for over an hour on a number of occasions dispersing patrons.

“This is a disproportionate use of police time and is totally unacceptable.”

Mr Aldom said that after taking over the pub in 2017 he had got rid of a biker gang and a “drug element”.

“I made it a family-friendly, community pub and not a bikers’ or drugs den,” Mr Aldom told the hearing.

He said The Bull Inn sponsored local football teams and the air ambulance.

Mr Aldom said he could recall only two people ever asking him to turn music down and that he did so.

He said Covid regulations were confusing because there were so many and kept changing.

Mr Morrey said: “I visit the pub at least once a day and live 50 metres from it.

“It has been a dream of ours to have a pub which is part of the community. That’s very important and it’s how I view the pub.”

The pair’s solicitor, Ewen Macgregor, said revoking the licence would not be fair to the community.

He said: “It’s clear Steve and Ian have not always got things right but they have tried and they have acted on advice.

“It is not fair to say they have not engaged with the authorities.

“This review arises through Covid. There was a perfect storm of events.”

Mr Macgregor said the increase in calls to police coincided with the pandemic, followed by the Euro 2020 football tournament, but that there were only eight such calls in 2017, none in 2018 and one in 2019.

“So the pub has been managed under the stewardship of Mr Aldom for three years with no difficulty whatsoever,” he said.

“We fully accept that for a period of time these premises have become a big irritant but when premises become an irritant they tend to get blamed for everything that happens,” he said.

“There is no evidence of drug-taking in the pub or the car park.

“When you look at the police reports of 30 or 50 people fighting, those were malicious calls.

“On no occasion have the police ever asked my clients to provide CCTV.

“At no stage have environmental health officers exercised the power under the existing licence to install a noise limiter, which is a condition we are offering.

“We have a whole raft of letters and a petition in support of the pub.”

Announcing the decision to revoke the licence, panel chairman Cllr Guy Poultney said: “The sub-committee considers this to be the only appropriate and proportionate step to address the cause of the concerns that instigated the review and considers the lack of involvement in responsibility of the premises licence holder to be a fundamental concern that no other step could address.”

The pub has 21 days to appeal to the magistrates’ court.

 

Words: Adam Postans, Local Democracy Reporter


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