Under-fire pub must improve – review panel

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Latest news from the Suffolk Free Press, suffolkfreepress.co.uk, @sfpsudbury on Twitter

A Bildeston pub with a history of serious crime and disorder has kept its licence, but with the warning that it must improve.

Suffolk Police had called for a review of The Red Lion’s licence following allegations of drug use, drunkeness and an incident in which a customer was stabbed.

In its application to Babergh District Council, police chiefs outlined serious concerns over how the High Street pub was being run and managed.

At a meeting of the council’s licensing committee in Hadleigh on Monday, the pub’s owners fought back, claiming that all-too-regular visits by officers amounted to “bullying and intimidation”.

Lisa Davis, mother of landlady Rachel Davis, alleged that police were picking on the pub, with three to four officers regularly coming in and demanding to check the business’ books and CCTV footage.

She claimed police did not trust her 25-year-old daughter to run the pub because she was too young.

The hearing heard that the checks had started after a fight at the pub in December in which her daughter’s partner, Andrew Eccles, is alleged to have attacked a customer with a six-inch knife.

Eccles, 23, of High Street, Bildeston, has been charged with actual bodily harm and is due to appear at Ipswich Crown Court on June 6.

Stuart Elliott-Smith, licensing officer at Suffolk Police, denied any claims of bullying, saying the review was in response to concerns over crime and disorder at the venue.

Mr Elliott-Smith did admit that, aside from the alleged stabbing, the other incidents had taken place before Miss Davis had taken over at the pub, but said conditions attached to its licence were necessary in order to safeguard its future.

“Bad people do go to pubs at times,” said Mr Elliot-Smith. “Conditions are there to help a pub be resilient against them.”

Addressing the pub’s owners, councillor Nick Ridley said: “Can you not see that unless something is put in place, this will not go away?”

The licensing committee, which had the power to suspend or revoke the pub’s licence, instead came to a unanimous decision that a number of conditions, including the introduction of CCTV, staff training and the creation of a drugs policy, should be applied to the pub’s licence.

Committee chairman councillor Ray Smith said: “We have considered what might be causing the problems and it appears the management – both past and present – have been inefficient in dealing with crime. We now hope things can move forward.”

After the hearing, Miss Davis declined to comment or say if she would appeal.