A Chelmsford pub plagued by violence can keep its licence and remain open despite a mass brawl that left three people seriously injured.
In the early hours of Sunday, August 9, police were called to a huge fight outside the The Bay Horse on Moulsham Street in Chelmsford, Essex.
Four people were taken to hospital, and Essex Police subsequently filed for a review of the pub’s licence, which took place at a Chelmsford City Council meeting on Monday (September 7) where its fate was decided.
The list of other allegations levelled at the pub included drug dealing, underage drinking, knife-wielding customers, a customer left with a fractured skull and 50 person fights.
At the meeting, it was revealed how an “arms-length” relationship and management clashes caused the running of the venue to go “rapidly downhill”.
The licence will not be revoked, but Chelmsford City Council has imposed some conditions including no amplified music to be played in outdoor parts of the premises.
The designated premises supervisor Gary Manion has been removed from the licence and the premises is not to be occupied, managed, directed, controlled or otherwise run by him, his agents, the Manion Group or anyone associated with them.
Several conditions proposed by Essex Police in their application for a summary review have been included in the revised licence including stopping any new customers from entering the pub after 11pm.
Brewing giant Greene King, which owns the pub, had been forced to defend its position against allegations that its hands-off approach led to violent incidents.
The premises licence is held by the Spirit Pub Company (Services) Limited, part of the Greene King group, which handed the day-to-day operations to Moulsham Properties and Steve Webb.
When Mr Webb fell ill, the operation of the licence was left to Manion Group Ltd, under the direction of Gary Manion, leading to clashes during lockdown between Mr Manion and a Webb family member.
Mr Manion has since been removed as a designated premises supervisor.
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‘No day-to-day control of the pub’
Essex Police licence officer, Gordon Ashford, told Chelmsford City Council’s licensing committee that although Greene King are the licence holders, they “have no day-to-day control of the premises whatsoever”.
He added: “They have no direct mechanism to ensure the operation of the premises is in accordance with the licencing act and the objectives of the licencing act.
“They have no direct oversight.
“For some time Greene King have handed the day-to-day operations to Moulsham Properties under Steve Webb. Until very recently that company has had no day-to-day involvement but instead handed it to Manion Group Ltd under the direction of Gary Manion.
“The designated premises supervisor, which according to the guidance, should be the person responsible for the day-to-day running of the premises, was indeed a Webb family member.
“However they were quite clearly subservient to Mr Manion in that a person was sacked from their position on the Friday before this most recent incident took place, which resulted in that individual relinquishing herself as designated premises supervisor the Monday following the incident.
“So we have a remote license holder which is absent and unlike a normal tenant in a pub situation, they cannot control the management of the pub and this ultimately has led to this sorry state of affairs.”
There had been a number of outcomes that could have come from the licensing meeting, one being the complete revocation of the pub’s licence and its resultant closure.
In a report published ahead of the meeting, Essex Police claimed that “the venue staff and management have lost control of the premises.”
A number of serious allegations are made in the documents, including through witness statements offered by police officers.
Since July, police have been repeatedly called to the pub for a number of large scale disturbances.
Although there has been a series of other incidents, the event that ultimately triggered the licence review happened on Sunday, August 9.
What happened on August 9?
At 12.14am, police were called to The Bay Horse to reports of a large fight where a glass was being used as a weapon.
The fight happened in the car park of the pub, and resulted in three men being taken to hospital with serious injuries.
One man was arrested suspected of being in possession of an offensive weapon.
It is reported that people nearby shouted “he has a knife” and one staff member said that they saw the man with a knife in the beer garden.
After he was arrested, police discovered that he had a knife in his possession, as well as a tyre iron.
Body camera footage from the night captured a huge brawl, as well as glass smashing and people screaming.
One of the men taken to hospital suffered a fractured skull and two others suffered fractured cheek bones, the documents say.
One officer also said that one of those involved in the fight inhaled a substance from a Nitrous Oxide cannister before the brawl.
Police were forced to shut the pub off the next day, with forensics investigating in the pub’s car park.
Following the evening’s events, Superintendent Paul Wells authorised that the police apply for the pub to undergo a license review.
Since June, Essex Police say it has been called to the pub 11 times for a number of different reasons.
These include other fights of between 20 and 50 people.
As well as these disturbances, police were alerted to reports of social distancing measures being ignored, an assault on a member of door staff, reports of drug dealing and drug taking inside the pub, smashed windows and more.
There have also been allegations that underage drinking regularly takes place at the pub, with children as young as 15-years-old being identified as having been consuming alcohol at the venue.
The outcome of the meeting
At the licensing meeting, Greene King made representations, defending what they called an “arms-length relationship” with the day-to-day operations of the Bay Horse.
Piers Warne, representing the company, told councillors: “Greene King do not condone any action that undermines the licence objectives.
“Greene King is a significant company with thousands of premises licences and where we can, we work very closely with officers, council, police and committee members to assist when these things inevitably do happen sometimes.”
Speaking specifically about the Bay Horse, he said: “This pub is free of tie, we let the premises, we have a landlord and under that lease we are obliged to hold the premises licence.
“After that, it’s a very arms-length landlord and tenant relationship.
“We are the landlords who happen to hold a premises licence.
“There is no doubt at all and there is case law to say that a landlord is perfectly entitled to hold a premises licence and at that point take no part in the operations of the premises.
“The key to licensing law is the promotion of the four licencing objectives. The council’s job is to ascertain who operates the premises and take action accordingly.”
Greene King suggested that amendments to the operating schedules licence in line with police proposals would be appropriate.
David Hook, representing Steven Webb and Moulsham Properties Ltd, said a management agreement was taken out because Mr Webb was taken very ill last year.
At the time of the incidents referred to by Essex Police, the designated premises supervisor (DPS) was Francesca Webb, who gave notice to quit the licence on Monday, August 10, in the aftermath of the fight at the pub.
Ms Webb was replaced by Gary Manion later that same day on an application to vary the DPS. A further application to vary the DPS on the licence was made shortly following an interim licensing hearing.
Mr Hook said: “Ms Webb was the designated premises supervisor until she was removed at her request because she felt she had no ability to discharge her responsibilities when matters came to a head on August 8 and 9.
“We are looking at a period of less than two months during which it would seem the management and running of the premises went downhill rapidly.”
He added that from July, Ms Webb made her concerns known that Covid restrictions were not being adhered to.
“For reasons best known to him, Gary Manion ran the premises from October to March this year without complaint and Ms Webb was working shifts and it was only after they reopened after lockdown that Mr Manion seemed to have gone off the rails completely,” Mr Hook added.
“Our efforts to enlist assistance fell on deaf ears and to this day Essex Police has refused to discuss the matter despite requests to do so.”
Mr Hook suggested that a licence should be operated by a Webb family member.
Greene King opposed any suggestion that the Webbs should have exclusive control of the pub.
Chelmsford City Council agreed not to revoke The Bay Horse license – but imposed conditions including no amplified music in outdoor parts of the premises; that the designated premises supervisor Gary Manion is removed from the license; the premises is not to be occupied, managed, directed, controlled or otherwise run by Mr Manion, his agents, the Manion Group or anyone associated with them.
A series of conditions proposed by Essex Police in their application for a summary review includes stopping any new customers from entering the pub after 11pm.