Future of Golden Knight pub in Huntingdon in doubt

A QUESTION mark hangs over the future of a Huntingdon pub after the resignation of its landlord today amid allegations of drug use and underage drinking at the premises.

A QUESTION mark hangs over the future of a Huntingdon pub after the resignation of its landlord on Wednesday amid allegations of drug use and underage drinking at the premises.

Ricky Newton handed in his notice as landlord of the Golden Knight midway through a licence review meeting at Huntingdonshire District Council, which had been called after cocaine, cannabis and pepper spray was found at the pub during a police raid.

Mr Newton denied supplying drugs, but was forced to step down after a proposal to hand over the reins to an associate of Mr Newton’s, Sandra George, was dropped.

A statement issued on behalf of Mr Newton said: “I’m not and have never been involved in the supply of drugs. It is with great regret and a heavy heart, that on account of my own naivety, I find myself leaving the Golden Knight, which has been a big part of my life.”

At the five-hour meeting at Pathfinder House, councillors heard police were concerned that the pub was not being run effectively.

Twenty-three calls had received by police of alleged drug-dealing and underage drinking at the premises.

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During a raid on August 13, officers found a line of cocaine in one of the rooms belonging to a tenant, pepper spray and cannabis resin in the bar area.

CCTV footage recovered from an HDC camera showed a week after the raid a drunk woman lying on the grass outside the pub while punters tried to flee the scene.

Sergeant Dave Bex, anti-social behaviour reduction officer for Huntingdonshire, said: “We are concerned about what is going on at the premises. Police have got a right to feel suspicious.”

Mark Brown, head of licensing for Admiral Taverns, said area manager Wayne Billyeald was not aware of the problems at the pub until he had been contacted by police.

“The Golden Knight is a pub on a difficult estate. There have always been some issues around estate pubs. The police found no evidence that Mr Newton was involved in the supply of drugs.

“The pub is a centre for the community, charity work for the community, lots of things go on that are not a negative. There are people that go there of different ages. There are darts, dominoes and cribbage for the elderly. It is a community pub and it needs to be run legally.”

But councillors were critical of brewery bosses for failing to pick up on problems and failing to bring records of visits to the meeting.

Cllr Patricia Jordan said: “I do think your company needs to look at the way it communicates and the way it keeps checks.”

Councillors threatened to impose a two-week suspension of the licence, unless more robust measures were agreed.

A proposal for Mrs George to oversee the running of the pub while Mr Newton took on ‘back-room’ duties was shelved, and instead Admiral Taverns pledged to install a new manager within 28 days or close the pub.

Mr Brown said he was optimistic a suitable candidate could be found: “If the right quality person cannot be found the site will remain closed, but a closed pub is more of a blight on the community than a trading pub is. Nobody wants a pub becoming an eyesore.”

Licence conditions imposed by the committee were for CCTV to be installed in the premises, for training records, refusal and incident books to be maintained and for the incoming landlord to be a member of pubwatch and attend meetings.