Southsea pub The Duke of Devonshire in Albert Road will be allowed to reopen after the weekend but faces licence review
A SOUTHSEA pub threatened with having its licence revoked after two ‘serious’ incidents last weekend, including a mass brawl, will be allowed to reopen after a temporary closure.
Hampshire police had previously said it would call for the Duke of Devonshire to be stripped of its licence but after agreeing a raft of new conditions, instead supported a short-term suspension until Monday.
This position was backed by a Portsmouth City Council licensing sub-committee on Thursday which said it was the ‘most appropriate action to take’ ahead of a full hearing to consider any further action scheduled for later this month.
Councillors agreed at a behind-closed-doors meeting on Wednesday to temporarily suspend the licence for the Albert Road pub in the wake of concerns raised by the police.
It followed an incident on Friday evening where a 17-year-old girl was served alcohol and, according to police reports, was groped and forced to take a substance thought to be cocaine.
These claims have, however, been disputed by solicitor Jon Wallsgrove, representing the pub, who said that CCTV footage ‘told a different story’.
He did accept concerns around a mass brawl the following day, which resulted in five men being arrested, but said it was a ‘freakish, isolated’ incident.
On Thursday a council licensing sub-committee met in public to consider the incidents and what further action needed to be taken against the pub, which has been closed this week.
They were told by acting police sergeant Pete Rackham that a temporary suspension until Monday (August 9) morning had been agreed with the pub to allow a raft of new conditions to be put in place which, he said, would satisfy concerns.
This included an upgraded CCTV system, better staff training, ID scanners, weekend doormen and better logging of incidents.
‘We feel that should those conditions be placed on the licence that would make it enforceable and would make the premises more accountable for their actions," he said.
‘If those conditions do go on they will mitigate risk, they will prevent harm and, if the premises was to remain closed this weekend, that would allow the licence holder to implement the change that is needed.
‘We are then in a position where there are conditions we can hold the licence holder to account with.’
Speaking at the meeting Mr Wallsgrove, representing the pub's landlord Tom Yaman, said the details of the Friday incident were disputed but that the pub accepted it could have done more.
‘We are not coming here saying we got everything right and there are no improvements to be made," he said. ‘Certainly the concern of a 17-year-old girl coming onto the remises and consuming alcohol is a legitimate one.
‘That failing really was of the bar staff who didn't check that person's ID.
‘Regrettably those incidents happened one night after the other and on a night he would ordinarily have a doorman on but he wasn't there although this was not a condition of his licence.
‘[Mr Yaman] was getting an awful lot right on a voluntary basis but we needed to tighten things up with conditions to make sure everyone was clear about how things were run.
‘These conditions add in that significant level of protection that things will be followed through.
‘The Duke of Devonshire is not a problem premises, it was a freakish, isolated incident over the weekend.’
After a short adjournment the licensing sub-commitee agreed the pub could reopen on Monday, subject to all the new conditions being in place.
‘The sub-committee considered all the available options and concluded that the appropriate action in this matter was to retain the interim suspension of the licence until Monday, August 9,’ councillor Scott Payter-Harris, its chairman, said.
‘Upon the police and licensing authority being satisfied that all measures are in place, the interim suspension of the licence shall be removed.
‘The sub-committee considered that these measures were necessary to ensure compliance and are a proportionate response.’
A full review of the pub's licence will be held on August 20.