A bouncer was so concerned about the way a troubled Preston pub was being run that he reported it to the licensing authorities after he was left as the lone member of door staff on a busy Saturday night – and ended up being assaulted and racially abused.Advertisement
The man was called a “monkey” and had a shatter-resistant glass hurled at his head during a shift at the Stanley Arms, a meeting of Preston City Council’s licensing sub-committee was told.
The hearing had been called to consider a request from Lancashire Police to review the premises licence for the Lancaster Road venue in the wake of a series of violent incidents, which included a man being left with a fractured skull and all-female brawl during which a barman was bitten and other customers treated the violence as “entertainment”.
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It came less than a year after the operator of the venue had last been summoned to the town hall after four ‘glassing’ incidents in the space of six weeks. That resulted in the hostelry being ordered to serve drinks in polycarbonate plastic glasses, call time at 2am instead of 4am and ensure that at least three door staff were on duty after 9pm on Saturdays. The latter condition has since been breached on “multiple” occasions, committee members heard.
The venue has been closed for almost a fortnight after a post on one of its social media accounts announced that it had fallen victim to “licensing pressures” ahead of the hearing.
The committee was told that the Stanley Arms’ now former landlord, Paul Butcher, last week relinquished his status as both the designated premises supervisor and the premises licence holder, with the latter now having transferred to the pub company which owns the site, Star Pubs and Bars.
In spite of Mr. Butcher’s departure, Lancashire Police had requested that the pub remain shut for three months before anyone else was allowed to reopen it.
However, Star Pubs argued that such a prolonged closure would have been to punish them for incidents that had occurred on Mr. Butcher’s watch, during the period when it was being operated by him under a tenancy agreement.
The three-strong sub committee decided that the pub would be able to open its doors once again from November 27, subject to further conditions – including the use only of accredited door staff and the installation of a large CCTV screen.
The meeting heard details of a raft of incidents which had given police licensing officer Stephen Connolly cause for concern this year. These included the experience of the door supervisor who had reported his employer to the town hall.
PC Connolly said that the man had arrived for work on the night of July 22, expecting to be one of three bouncers on duty – but found that he was the only one there. He had claimed that there were already around “100 drunk people inside the premises” at that point.
The officer said that the door staffer was later “racially abused…was referred to as a monkey and told to ‘go back home’ by customers”. Councillors heard that he had an e-cigarette and a high heel shoe thrown at him, which both missed, before he was struck by one of the polycarbonate glasses which “split his head open”.
CCTV footage showed the vessel being thrown from outside the venue by a man who had taken his shirt off and, PC Connolly said, was challenging the door supervisor to a fight in the street.
In an email to the city council several days later, the bouncer called on the authority to “finally act and set a good example for the town by shutting this pub down” – a demand that the police officer said was “quite damning”.
The meeting was told that Mr. Butcher was not present that night and had later said he did not know why staff had traded beyond 9pm without sufficient door supervision. The then landlord had said that two other supervisors who were booked for that evening had phoned in unavailable.
However, PC Connolly said that CCTV footage he had seen from July alone showed that there were “multiple times [when] there were insufficient door staff on a Saturday night”.
The committee was also shown CCTV of an incident on 27th March of a fight breaking out between several women, with the violence raging for more than five minutes, as bar staff summoned help from door supervisors at nearby premises who tried to prise the combatants apart.
“Multiple females [were] rolling around on the floor, hair being pulled [and] strikes being thrown,” said PC Connolly, who condemned the delay that there had been in calling the police. A bar worker was bitten during the fracas, in behaviour which the officer described as “animalistic”.
He added that some customers – including two men who looked on as the women fought right in front of their table – treated it as “just entertainment for them…it [was] amusing”.
Meanwhile, the customer who suffered a fractured skull sustained the injury – which led to a bleed on the brain – after a one-punch assault saw him fall and hit his head. While PC Connolly said that the incident, on 14th August, could have happened anywhere, it “just so happens” to have occurred in a pub that had become known “for serious violence”.
George Domleo, a solicitor representing Star Pubs and Bars, said that although the company regretted and did not condone the incidents at the premises, “these issues were not of our client’s making”. He said that the review request from the police was “based solely on the failings of Mr. Butcher as both premises licence holder and the designated premises supervisor”
Mr. Domleo said that the company had volunteered to close the venue for six weeks as “a circuit break” and to allow a new team to prepare for a reopening, but he said that a three-month shutdown “would not be an appropriate or proportionate response”.
He warned of the cost of losing out on Christmas and New Year trade, which he said was vital to see pubs through the rest of the winter – and even suggested that it would suit the police for the Stanley Arms to remain closed until 2024 as it would mean “one less premises for [them] to deal with” over the festive period.
The meeting heard that Star Pubs planned to enter into a “temporary management agreement” with the operator of two other Preston pubs, The Angel, on Lune Street, and The Golden Cross, just along the road from the Stanley Arms. The meeting heard that Daniel Alderson was experienced in running venues within the night-time economy in Preston.
A new designated premises supervisor, general manager and entirely new staff team will also be brought in to operate the Stanley Arms when it reopens.
Committee member Cllr David Borrow said that changing the management addressed only half the problem – with the other half being the “customer base” that had come to frequent the venue and cause trouble.
Mr. Alderson said that the key to a safe pub or bar operation came at the moment a punter walked in.
“You can generally tell what type of person [a customer is] – and so whether you [have] to keep an eye on them. We would [also] know who in the city centre is…problematic [and so who] we would not…allow in from the start.”
“[There will be] certain groups that we would literally eradicate straight away,” Mr. Alderson pledged.
The meeting heard that Paul Butcher, who operates several other pubs in Preston and South Ribble, had been considered by Star Pubs to be a good tenant for most of his tenure – not least because the police had not objected to an extension of the venue’s opening hours, which was approved not long before the premises licence review that had taken place last year.
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