Former mayor Aigars Balsevics must wait for verdict on pub fate
- Credit: Terry Harris
Former mayor Aigars Balsevics will be on tenterhooks while magistrates decide the fate of his future at a Wisbech pub.
Cllr Balsevics appealed a decision by Fenland District Council licensing committee to remove him as designated premises supervisor for the Angel.
A tense day before Peterborough magistrates on Thursday saw two expert legal licensing minds clash in David Dadds and Leo Charalambides.
Cllr Balsevics was represented by Mr Dadds whilst Fenland Council opted for Mr Charalambides.
Cllr Balsevics revealed he had paid a £1,000 Covid fine for serving drinks at the Angel after the 10pm Christmas Eve curfew.
But he also said that allegations about multiple Covid breaches made by Fenland Council were never subject to a formal police interview.
When challenged about mask exemptions on Christmas Eve he said he is exempt but has had “nothing in writing from a GP”.
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A list of customers at The Angel on December 24 was recorded for track and trace purposes, but he did not confirm numbers.
“If people were standing up, we’d tell them to sit down. Some people came to the bar, but I asked them to sit down,” he said.
Cllr Balsevics refuted a suggestion he lost control of his customers.
He said: “We were doing our best. I did not lose control.”
He said nobody was dancing at The Angel and said mock fighting in the courtyard area was “not an example of any failings. Some people probably forgot to wear a mask.”
Cllr Balsevics confirmed everyone at the pub had food.
Magistrates saw CCTV footage from inside and outside the public house on Christmas Eve.
Faces were pixelated but the bar area, function room and outdoor smoking area were featured.
The evidence was vital in a decision by Fenland Council's licensing committee to remove Cllr Balsevics as the designated premises supervisor of The Angel.
The council claimed customers, staff and Cllr Balsevics could be seen “mingling/mixing freely”.
And there was “hugging, kissing, shaking hands and even mock fighting/wrestling.”
Covid-19 regulations were in force at the time and the case against Cllr Balsevics was pursued.
In the pixelated CCTV evidence, Cllr Balsevics appeared to be serving food or drink to customers, whose faces were blurred out.
Footage also showed some customers hugging and pats on backs.
At around 9pm, police arrived at The Angel and by around 10.30pm, the main bar area was empty.
There was also evidence of mock fighting in the outdoor seated/smoking area by one customer.
Chair of the magistrates' bench, Susan Painter, said it was the first time they had watched the CCTV footage.
Mr Charalambides said the alleged breaches had highlighted failings in Cllr Balsevics, his staff and customers, something Cllr Balsevics disagreed with.
Mr Charalambides told him: “The evening can be characterised by your best not being good enough.”
Cllr Balsevics said he “did not intend to break the rules and I could have done better on that night. I should have had extra staff that night.”
Mr Charalambides, who called for a "robust response" to what happened on December 24, said: “The real concern is, during Covid, is thinking to open a pub until after the curfew is the right thing to do?
“Cllr Balsevics has accepted the notice, but imagine if that didn’t happen.
"He has not been running the pub in a Covid-safe manner and it’s appropriate his pub licence should be removed.”
In response, Mr Dadds, who previously described the hearing as a “sledgehammer to crack a nut”, said it was “very difficult” to fully understand what happened.
“There is a saying where you throw enough mud and hope some sticks, and I’m concerned mud throwing has taken place,” he said.
“The police have dealt with the matter by way of a fixed penalty notice, and looking forwards, the licensing objectives will be met.”
Mr Dadds added that a three-month suspension placed on Cllr Balsevics was “disproportionate” and that removal of managerial responsibility would “not be acceptable”.
Magistrates will now consider the evidence and a decision will be made in due course.