A bar which has seen a string of violent incidents – including a man having part of his ear ‘bitten off’ on the dance floor – has kept its licence after a punter had his head stamped on by staff outside the venue.
Tameside council’s liquor licensing panel carried out a review of the licence of the Back to the 80’s bar in Stalybridge after a series of violent incidents at the venue. These included grievous bodily harm assaults involving both customers and staff employed at the premises.
In July of this year at around 3am, a ‘serious assault’ occurred on Market Street, close to the back of the bar after a man who had been at the venue was thrown out. After he was ejected a member of staff and off-duty member of door staff followed him and assaulted him, the panel was told.
The meeting yesterday heard from police that CCTV footage of the incident showed one held the victim down while another kicked and stamped on his head, leaving him with a ‘deep gash’ to the nose and other injuries to his face.
Greater Manchester Police (GMP) and the North West Ambulance Service attended the scene and made two arrests. It is the third alleged incident of grievous bodily harm to have occurred at the property in the last three years, the panel was told.
In November 2021, the licensing department received information from GMP relating to an incident which resulted in a male customer having part of his ear bitten off while on the dance floor inside the venue. Documents stated police arrested the offender at the scene and the victim was taken to hospital for their injuries.
In June 2022 a man was recorded on CCTV within the bar – footage of which was shown at the hearing – to punch another customer leaving him collapsed on the floor, and sustaining injuries including a fractured eye socket. The attacker remained in the bar and finished his drink.
Licensing officers told the panel they had ‘lost faith’ in the ability of the premises to uphold the licensing objectives and the latest incident was ‘particularly concerning’ as it involved staff employed at the premises. They argued the licence should be revoked.
Tameside’s licensing manager Mike Robinson said that prior to the assault in July this summer, video footage showed staff members ‘lying down, smoking and drinking’ in the ‘moments preceding the victim being ejected from the premises’.
“Upon reviewing the CCTV footage from inside the premises it was clear that door staff working at the premises on the 24th of July had not taken appropriate measures to prevent this incident from occurring,” he added.
A statement read out on behalf of Police Inspector John Cesarz said he had ‘concerns’ about the management of the bar, while ward councillors Jan Jackson, Adrian Pearce and Christine Beardmore had also lodged representations to the hearing.
In their joint statement they said that Stalybridge and Market Street was undergoing ‘substantial redevelopment’ and ‘late night drinking and thuggery does not fit in with this image’.
Documents presented to the hearing stated there were 56 incidents that had occurred from last August to July of this year in connection with the bar. However the representative for the premises licence holder Whitaker said that many of these were ‘nonsensical’ as they bore no direct relation to the venue, such as people driving past and firing BB guns at properties on Market Street, and the number of incidents was closer to 30.
Solicitor Andrea Forrest said: “It becomes a situation where you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t. If you report an incident you’re doing the right thing but on the other hand it’s notched up against your premises, so it’s a black mark. In a perfect world it would be lovely to achieve a record of no incidents at all but that would be unrealistic.
“An individual who engages in antisocial behaviour is accountable in their own right,” Ms Forrest added. “It’s not the fault of my client, the premises licence holder, that two off duty members of staff take it on themselves to leave the premises, go down the street and become involved in a violent attack.”
But she told councillors ‘remedial’ action had been taken following the incident. “It’s not acceptable behaviour by his staff,” Ms Forrest said. “And it’s proved by his remedial action that he won’t tolerate this kind of behaviour.
“He doesn’t want anything like this to happen anywhere in the streets, particularly not down the road from his venue. The behaviour of these people, it’s disgusting, but it has been acted on by the premises licence holder. My client is really sorry for what happened to the injured party.”
She added that a change to the licensing hours, including introducing door staff from 9pm would ‘kill the business’. The members of staff involved in the incident had been sacked, the hearing was told and reported to Pub Watch.
The premises licence holder, Ian Whittaker, told the panel: “We do our utmost to stop people from causing trouble, we have doormen there to try and make sure it doesn’t happen, but you’re not going to stop this trouble.”
Mr Whittaker said they had asked for a police van to park on Market Street to act as a deterrent, and he had put on more door staff than legally required in his venues to protect customers and ensure health and safety. “All I’ve ever done for 15 years is to keep people safe,” he added.
The panel ruled against revoking the licence, in favour of modifying its conditions including the opening times and sale of alcohol. It will close at 2.30am on Thursday to Saturdays, and 12.30am on Sunday, and stop serving alcohol half an hour before closing time.
There must be three members of accredited door staff with high visibility armbands on from 11pm, and a metal detector wand must be in use for customers.
The personal licence holder or the designated premises supervisor must be at the bar any time licensable activities are taking place. There is now a 21 day window for an appeal to be lodged against the decision.