STRIPPED LICENCE: Porky Pint mounts appeal
A pub stripped of its licence after opening during covid lockdown has mounted an appeal.
The Porky Pint, in Billingham, saw its premises licence revoked by Stockton Council in July after opening in January.
Landlord Paul Henderson accepted he’d broken the law but had done so in protest in covid regulations and the “devastation” he believed they’d caused.
But pleas for the Mill Lane pub and eatery to keep its licence didn’t wash with councillors – with the authority licensing committee labelling the breaches “extremely serious” given the thousands of lives lost in the pandemic.
An appeal to overturn the decision was due to be heard at Teesside Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday morning on the grounds that it was “unnecessary and disproportionate”.
However, the hearing did not go ahead and was adjourned until September 28.
A third national lockdown was announced on January 4 amid rising demand on the country’s hospitals.
The Porky Pint had informed the authorities of its intention to open ahead of January 30 as part of a campaign labelled “The Great Reopening”.
A subsequent visit by police and council teams found customers drinking inside.
Mr Henderson was handed a £1,000 fixed penalty notice for the breach at the pub – and the wider episode triggered licensing proceedings at Stockton Council.
Arguments were heard at a licensing hearing hosted by Stockton Baptist Tabernacle in July.
Philip Kolvin QC, on behalf of the landlord, called it a “very unusual” case where a “responsible, professional and highly qualified” man had taken a deliberate decision to disobey a law.
He told the committee Mr Henderson was not an irresponsible greedy person – and had acted the way he did out of personal belief.
A 13 page statement from the landlord also set out why he’d taken his stand with the family business – as well as his character, and the hard work which had gone into the Porky Pint.
The statement added: “I made a political statement and sought to draw public attention to the devastation these laws have caused not just to small independent businesses, and particularly the hospitality sector, but to society at large.”
However, barrister James Kemp, for Cleveland Police and the council teams, said it was not for people and licence holders to “pick and choose which bits they like and which bits they don’t” from the rules.
“The law is there, whatever you may think, for a reason,” added Mr Kemp.
“It is there to control society – and in this case, in a pandemic, the control understandably had to be tightened.
“Why? – because you may die. It’s as simple as that.”
The committee’s final decision report “gave credit” to Mr Henderson for running the pub in a “responsible manner” up until the breach.
But members ruled Mr Henderson’s actions and behaviours were “extremely serious”.
The report added: “The committee’s view was Mr Henderson had not given any thought to the community when he had acted in the manner which he did.”
The landlord hit back in the aftermath of the decision – criticising the panel and its advisors and branding the process “unbelievable” and an “unnecessary waste of public time and money”.
Words: Alex Metcalfe, Local Democracy Reporter
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