Harrogate pub licensee 'sets record straight' over Covid-19 'breach'

The landlord of the Harrogate pub facing a licence review after a partial reopening led to crowds of drinkers on West Park has attempted to 'set the record straight' after accusations of breaching Covid-19 rules.

By Graham Chalmers
Thursday, 11th June 2020, 10:49 am
Updated Thursday, 11th June 2020, 10:54 am
Formal notice was served on the Coach & Horses last week by Harrogate Borough Council  informing the landlord that a licence review was under way
Formal notice was served on the Coach & Horses last week by Harrogate Borough Council informing the landlord that a licence review was under way

Formal notice was served on the Coach & Horses last week by Harrogate Borough Council informing the landlord that a licence review was under way after warnings were ignored over the weekend of May 29-30 when it served takeaway beer.

Action was taken jointly by the borough council and North Yorkshire Police after they say the popular pub had continued to trade in breach of coronavirus laws.

But Coach & Horses licensee John Nelson dismisses the controversy as "petty nonsense."

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Mr Nelson says the popular pub, one of the oldest in Harrogate, was serving takeaway beer as part of what he said was four days of fundraising for a local charity when he turned the pub into a pop-up garden centre selling flowers and serving drinks.

And he said he did take some steps to stay within the rules of social distancing.

Mr Nelson said: “Our pavements were clear. I had placed an A-board on the road at the side door of the pub saying “do not stand in front of this pub or on the surrounding pavements.

“On Sunday I decided to put some chairs and stools on the grass verge opposite the pub for the benefit and comfort of the people.

"Chairs and stools were placed at least two metres apart.

“At around 3pm I was visited by two jobsworths from Harrogate Borough Council.

“It’s petty nonsense and we have better things to do.”

The flashpoint came on the Sunday when advice was given to three pubs in Harrogate town centre over the weekend of May 29-30 after concerns were received by the council’s enforcement team.

The authorities say the licensee of one of the venues - the Coach & Horses - initially accepted the advice given on Saturday, but then broke the regulations again on Sunday.

The council issued a prohibition notice to the pub the same day and in doing so said its officers were subjected to verbal abuse from customers.

Despite the prohibition notice, they say the pub continued to trade in the same way.

Council officers and police officers returned to the pub last Wednesday, June 3 to serve notice of the licence review.

Both the police and the council say Covid-19 regulations do not permit consumption of alcohol on the premises, including outdoor areas, or the provision of seating for use by customers anywhere adjacent to the premises. The same rules apply to cafes, restaurants, hotels - and garden centres.

But Mr Nelson said it was all a storm in a tea cup.

Mr Nelson said: "The four days that we opened was extremely successful raising in excess of £5k and everyone outside enjoying the sun and fresh air.

"On a personal note I have experienced first hand the devastation that this virus has caused family’s when they have lost a loved one. A customer and good friend was lost to this virus.

"It is my belief that my friend and many others have died unnecessarily not to mention the financial chaos that has been caused because this virus was not contained.

"Why didn’t this government devise a plan to stop this virus entering the country?"

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