The Top End Bar in Ashton has had its licence suspended for three months for breaching lockdown rules.
A special Speakers’ Panel (Liquor Licensing) hearing was held last Thursday to deliberate on events around the breach.
The door to the pub, on Stamford Street, was found open late in the afternoon of April 3 by police and licensing officers, with written, verbal and CCTV evidence all taken into account by the panel.
At the hearing the panel was told Sanjay Mistry had been found in the bar on the date.
Other than odd jobs, he told the panel, which met via Zoom, that he was also having a business meeting regarding business grants which necessitated him seeing one other individual in the bar.
He was also receiving rent from another gentleman who lived on the premises at the time, who was also dropping off some meat for Designated Premises Supervisor Anita Mistry.
All of the individuals appeared and spoke during the meeting to confirm events.
Tony Dales, licensing consultant representing the Top End Bar, said the history of the bar before Covid was ‘exemplary’ with a good team looking after customers and the pub itself ‘without any issues whatsoever’.
“What we have here is a decision that was made for the pub to be used for a business meeting - but it is up to the panel to decide if that was a business meeting or not,” he said.
“But the decision was made and it was a poor one and the Covid breach has taken place. I submit that this was not a wilful breach, but a real catastrophic mistake.
“We have Anita Mistry, an exemplary DPS running an exemplary bar pre-Covid and Sanjay Mistry working hard, not breaching any licensing objectives and the police have no issues with the bar at all. But the mistake has been made.”
He said he would accept the licence having to be suspended - but appealed against the licence being revoked.
Anita Mistry added that they had run a good bar before the pandemic, they did not tolerate unlawful behaviour - and having reopened after lockdown there had been no issues either.
“The premises were not open to the public on this one occasion (April 3), but I apologise for any Covid guidelines that were breached,” she said.
However, in his summing up of events, Michael Robinson, Tameside Council’s head of licensing said: “It is my opinion that the management of the premises have shown a flagrant disregard for both the coronavirus regulations and the licensing objectives.
“The premises was required to close from the 21st of March and the Prime Minister went further with lockdown measures on the 23rd of March and the country was locked down, giving an instruction to the British people that they must stay at home and only leave for permitted purposes...
“I feel that owning or managing a bar is not essential and they are not considered to be key workers.”
He said he was proud about the way the vast majority of licensees had responded to the situation across Tameside.
“Each face the same issues and same severe financial hardships as a result,” he said. “Therefore revocation of the licence is an appropriate and proportionate step in order to promote the licensing objectives.
“I want responsible businesses in Tameside to see that we have taken action when it comes to businesses that have flouted the rules and ultimately put lives at risk,” he added.
For Greater Manchester Police, PC Martin Thornley added: “There are some people who think they are invincible and that the instructions don’t apply to them. This cannot be acceptable. Tameside want businesses to comply with instructions and operate safely.
“The vast majority of licensees promote the licensing objective to the best of their ability. The hospitality industry expects authorities to be strong and take action where necessary.
“There are many people in Tameside who have become seriously ill or even died as a result of this deadly virus.
“The closure of pubs was deemed necessary as these are places where people come together.
“Nationally, over 45,000 people have died from this virus. This happened at a time when people needed to keep apart - the instructions were clear.”
James Mallion (Public Health) also emphasised that the coronavirus health regulations needed to be adhered to.
Reducing contact and not mixing with others was to reduce the spread of the virus, so allowing people to gather in the premises would ‘potentially increase the spread of Covid’ in his view.
Following deliberations, chair of the panel Cllr David Sweeton said they were satisfied that a serious breach had taken place which Tameside as an authority was ‘not prepared to allow to happen’.
“The Top End Bar was open on April 3 following lockdown - with the law clear that non-essential premises were to close fully,” he said.
Neither did the panel accept that the bar was open for a ‘business meeting’.
“As a panel we were not satisfied with what we were told. Clearly the premises was open, clearly the door was open, clearly there were people in a premises where there should have been nobody but one person ‘tops’.”
The panel was of the view that a period of suspension take place for three months.
The following conditions were also enforced - that Sanjay Mistry be banned from the premises with immediate effect and he must not be part of the business at all.
The pub can appeal against the decision within 21 days.