Police accuse Wisbech mayor and pub landlord of 'insulting disregard' to licensing objectives
- Credit: Archant
A police officer – and the licensing officer for Fenland – accuses Wisbech mayor and pub landlord Aigars Balsevics of an “insulting disregard” to the force’s licensing objectives.
PC Paul Hawkins says 21 alleged breaches by Cllr Balsevics on Christmas Eve at the Angel public house showed him to be “deliberately reckless or, at the very least, grossly negligent as an operator”.
His report will be put to a licensing review hearing on March 15 which alleges the mayor breached health and safety legislation and guidance.
He is also alleged to have breached “relevant public health regulations and guidance”.
The premises licence holder is Elgood & Sons Ltd, and Cllr Balsevics is the designated premises supervisor (DPS).
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The review has been applied for by environmental health officers at Fenland Council, supported by Cambridgeshire Constabulary, Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue and Public Health.
Police visited the pub on Christmas Eve after receiving an email alleging Cllr Balsevics was hosting a party for a football club.
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PC Hawkins says they arrived to find “the front door was locked and curtains drawn, meaning that police could not see inside.
“There was noise coming from inside. Police knocked loudly for several minutes. No one answered the door.
“Aigars turned up several minutes later, and came running down the road on the telephone in a panic; he allowed police access.
“Aigars explained that the pub door was locked so that only those on the list were allowed in; this was to limit numbers due to Covid. Aigars denied that the football club were having a party”.
PC Hawkins said he was “dismayed” when he later saw CCTV footage.
The mayor, a security officer and bar person were seen walking among customers without masks, and one group was seen in the area drinking alcohol from 3pm to closure.
“There are paper plates scattered at tables, but you barely seen anyone eat the food provided. Patrons walk the premises freely, are not challenged and attend the bar in person.”
“The footage clearly shows Balsevics, the staff and the patrons in complete disregard of the Covid restrictions that were in force.”
Environmental health protection officer Andrew Fox says that on January 7 when he went to collect a memory stick containing CCTV footage, Cllr Balsevics told him he could locate a list of attendees.
When he returned on January 26 to collect more CCTV evidence, again Cllr Balsevics had been unable to locate the list.
Cllr Balsevics has filed a statement in which he denies the pub was hosting “an event” and said it was open from 12 noon “for regulars to have some food and drink”.
Police reminded him that he was recorded on body cameras as saying it was for a football team that he sponsors.
However, Cllr Balsevics denied this, agreeing there were about 60 people in the pub, and promising police he had kept a list of those present.
"I only keep it for 21 days and some did the track and trace scan; I will have a look,” he said. He said customers were asked if lived together or were in a Covid related support bubble.
"They arrived in bubbles, lived together, between 3 and 5pm,” he said. “I took orders for the food and served the drinks to the table.”
He said customers could have “pasties, sausage rolls, salad and chips. If they wanted to, I ordered them takeaway”.
Cllr Balsevics said the door was locked “to prevent overcrowding as it was Christmas Eve and to stop 50 people from walking in”.
Asked at what point were customers informed that they could not be served further alcohol, he said when they finished their food.
In response to a question about how long he felt was a “a proportionate time for someone to consume a substantial meal,” he replied: “about an hour to an hour and half.
“It’s a difficult timeframe, sometimes I could eat over two hours if I wanted to”.
Police say they have evidence of customers, staff and the mayor “mingling/mixing freely and on many occasions seen having physical contact with each other”.
It included “hugging, kissing, shaking hands and even mock fighting/wrestling”.