Councillors decide Mayor is no angel as they ban him from running pub
- Credit: Archant
Stripped of his right to run the Angel, Wisbech, Mayor Aigars Balsevics was found to have breached Covid-19 regulations in his pub on Christmas Eve.
“There was little or no safeguarding for employees and customers,” was the verdict of the licensing committee of Fenland District Council.
“The motive behind this blatant disregard can only be for profit,” the committee concluded.
It follows a five-hour hearing on Monday of a review into the premises licence of the Angel – held by Elgoods – and that of Mayor Balsevics, the licensee. He is the designated premises supervisor (DPS).
Elgoods has been told to find a new tenant for the Angel.
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The committee removed Cllr Balsevics as the DPS and suspended the pub’s premises licence for three months.
But Cllr Balsevics can continue to run his other two pubs in the town, the Three Tuns and King’s Head.
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The committee’s decisions are subject to appeal.
They said a condition should be attached to the Angel licence banning Cllr Balsevics from any part of its management.
Cllr Balsevics “must not have any further managerial responsibility for the premises,” says the committee.
This includes “responsibility for the day to day running of the public house” and holding any “supervisory position” associated with it.
“This condition will still apply should there be a change of name for the premises while a premises licence is in place authorising the sale or supply of alcohol,” ruled the committee.
They found two of the district's licensing objectives were “undermined by a disregard of Covid regulations and health and safety legislation”.
The ruling follows a five-hour hearing on Monday when CCTV of what happened in the Angel on Christmas Eve was shown in private to the committee.
The committee also heard evidence in public from environmental health officials, police and the fire service.
The committee, however, said their verdict did not deprive Cllr Balsevics of remaining as the DPS in the Three Tuns and King’s Head, the two other Elgood tenancies he runs.
They said the three-month suspension of the Angel’s licence would allow the brewery to find a new DPS.
The committee noted that “the current DPS is unable to operate the public house in accordance with relevant health and safety and public health legislation”.
Cllr Balsevics and Elgoods have three weeks to appeal the decision to Peterborough magistrates.
The committee set out their findings four days following the hearing which considered breaches of social distancing, alcohol sales and Covid-19 regulations at the pub on Christmas Eve.
The committee found:
1: People attending the public house on the day were not wearing face coverings (save as to three females) and were not practicing safe distancing
2: The staff were not adhering to the requirements of safe working practices and were not wearing face coverings
3: Many customers were not supplied with a substantial meal and drinks were clearly being bought without buying a meal.
4: Drinks were being sold to people at the bar
5: A person helped himself to drinks from the bar and supplied drinks to a companion
6: Drinks were sold after 10pm
7: The rule of six people at a table was largely ignored
8: People were freely mixing and not remaining seated
9: The main entrance and exit door were locked
10: Staff appeared not to have washed hands between serving drinks and there was no evidence of sanitizer being used
11: The DPS was present for most of the day
12: There was no attempt, until the police arrived, to adhere to safe working practices or enforce the Covid 19 restrictions/conditions as laid down in the Covid 19 Regulations
13: The DPS was complicit in the disregard for safe working practices for staff and in the disregard of the regulations
14: No attempt was made to collect customer details for track and trace purposes
15: No attempt was made to implement Covid 19 safe working practices as identified in the risk assessment
16: The public house was Covid 19 compliant as to regards having the QR system in place; having screens at the bar; having one-way markers on the floor; but these were not enforced on the day
17: The DPS was fully aware of his legal obligations having received advice and having completed the risk assessment and ‘safe to trade’ document
18: Significant weight can be to the information from the police, the fire service and public health.
19: Also, we attach considerable weight to what we saw on the CCTV footage.
20: We have taken into account that there are no previous issues associated with these premises.
21: We note that the DPS is a DPS for two other licensed premises.
22: We have taken into account the letters and petition in support of the DPS.
23: We do not attach much credibility to the version of events presented on behalf of the DPS.
24: We conclude that the DPS was fully aware of his responsibilities but chose to ignore them on 24th.
Covid regulations were largely ignored as was the Health and Safety at Work Act.
There was little or no safeguarding for employees and customers. The motive behind this blatant disregard can only be for profit.
25: We find such behaviour during the pandemic as was on 24th, staggering to say the least.
Not only were staff put at risk and those in attendance but also persons in the wider community who may well come into contact with those present on the day.
We are all fully aware of how easy the Covid 19 virus can be transmitted and what are the consequences not only for those infected but for the burden placed on the NHS.
26: We have grave concerns that the door was locked whilst customers were in the premises, especially as a doorman was employed on the night to control numbers.
27: There is no evidence to suggest that persons attending had booked a meal or were intending to do so.
It is more likely than not that this was an organised event given the number of people who appeared to know each other and that a buffet had been supplied.
We do not accept that the premises licence holder (Elgoods) can “contract away” their responsibilities to the DPS as tenant, as this would go behind the provisions and core protections of the 2003 Act.
28: We have no doubt that the DPS is a popular member of the community who sponsors a local football team, and that previously there have been no issues of concern, but previously the country was not in a pandemic.
29: We considered the information before us and felt it necessary to take robust steps as the circumstances that gave rise to the review are totally unacceptable.
30: The DPS was the main person responsible for the events of 24th but the PLH (premises licence holder, Elgoods) cannot avoid any responsibility.
31: The steps taken are necessary and proportionate, and should help the PLH to promote the two licensing objectives in question; and protect the public.
The committee noted that it sought legal advice on their deliberations.