Wisbech mayor loses licence to run town's Angel Inn following 'staggering' breaches of Covid rules
The mayor of Wisbech Aigars Balsevics has been stripped of his licence to run the Angel Inn and has been banned from having any further managerial responsibility for the premises.
That was the decision announced this afternoon by Fenland District Council's licensing committee following a full day's hearing on Monday (15) into breaches of covid-19 regulations at the Alexandra Road pub on Christmas Eve.
The panel adjourned on Monday to consider the evidence against Mr Balsevics, the designated premises supervisor (DPS), which included CCTV footage captured during the afternoon and evening which members watched in private.
Allegations included staff and customers failing to wear face coverings, lack of hand washing, breaches of social distance rules with customers and staff interacting including hugging, kissing and play wrestling.
There was footage of Mr Balsevics himself hugging a customer at the end of the evening and he was also seen not to wear a face covering or to follow hand hygiene procedurers.
There was also evidence from PC Justin Bielawski who attended the Angel Inn on the evening following reports the pub was hosting a private party for a local football club that the front door to the premises was locked. He told Monday's hearing he had to wait five minutes to be let in by Mr Balsevics, and described witnessing customers moving around the pub, lack of face coverings being worn and large quantities of glasses on tables.
CCTV footage had also shown some customers going behind the bar to help themselves to alcohol, and also that a buffet of pasties, sausage rolls, salad and chips had sat largely untouched by the customers present - despite consumption of a substantial meal being one of the rules for pubs to be able to open during the pandemic.
In their decision, reached during a private session this afternoon (Thursday), the committee concluded: "We conclude that the DPS (Mr Balsevics) 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 were little or no safeguarding for employees and customers.
"The motive behind this blatant disregard can only be for profit. 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.
"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.
"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 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.
"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."
Elgood's Brewery, which is the pub's landlords and the Premises Licence Holder (PLH), did not escape the committee's comment.
With the conclusion stating: " We do not accept that the PLH can “contract away” their responsibilities as a PLH to the DPS as tenant, as this would go behind the provisions and core protections of the 2003 Act.
"The DPS was the main person responsible for the events of 24th but the PLH cannot avoid any responsibility.
"The steps taken, as follows, are necessary and proportionate, and should help the PLH to promote the two licensing objectives in question; and protect the public."
Not only is Mr Balsevics to be removed from the licence but the licence is to be suspended for three months and a condition attached to the licence which states Mr Balsevics must not have any further managerial responsibility for the premises - and that condition applies even if the pub changes its name.
The decision notice, which points out Mr Balsevics is the DPS of two other premises in the town and therefore has not been deprived of working, adds: "We find that two following licensing objectives have been undermined by a disregard of the above mentioned Covid regulations and health and safety legislation, even in the absence of any “disorder” in the general sense of the word."
Suspension of the licence, the notice says, will give Elgood's time to find a new DPS and to engage fully with any relevant health and safety and public health legislation.
The suspension will not come into affect for 21 days or if the decision is appealed, until that appeal has been determined.
Mr Balsevics and Elgood's now have 21 days to appeal the decision through Peterborough Magistrates Court.