Council revoke pub's licence over concerns about linked violence

The Corner House is on the edge of the Market Square in St Neots.

The Corner House is on the edge of the Market Square in St Neots. - Credit: LDRS

A pub in St Neots has had its licence revoked after concerns were raised by police that violent incidents linked to it would continue as long as the current landlord is in charge.

Cambridgeshire Constabulary asked for the current licence for The Corner House, in Market Square, to be revoked in order to stop the present licence holder from trading.

The police said issues have been ongoing for a number of years, but that there had been a “disproportionate” amount of violent incidents linked to the bar over the last 24 months.

The bar is run by Omar Hassani, who has held the licence for the bar since before 2005, when the Licensing Act came into force.

Police said they had tried to engage with Mr Hassani over the years and offer advice, but said any changes were "short lived".

Huntingdonshire District Council’s Licensing Sub-Committee met on April 14  to discuss the application by police to revoke the bar’s licence.

At the start of the meeting, councillors were told that in a short phone call, Mr Hassani had informed council officers that he would not be attending the meeting.

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They also heard that shortly before the meeting, Mr Hassani had sent a short, once sentence email, stating that he would be surrendering the premises licence.

The sub-committee decided to go ahead with the hearing despite Mr Hassani’s absence.

PC Clare Metcalfe, the licensing officer for Cambridgeshire Constabulary, said the force had “significant” concerns over Mr Hassani’s “poor management style”.

Since January 2020, PC Metcalfe highlighted that there had been 17 crimes recorded in connection to the bar, including assaults, criminal damage offences, and theft.

Since May 2021, she highlighted that there had been three cases of grievous bodily harm, one case of actual bodily harm, two common assaults, one case of criminal damage, and one security industry authority offence.

She explained to councillors that two particular criminal investigations had highlighted a number of licence breaches, including a doorman who was found to be unlicensed, CCTV showing incorrect times and a doorman being seen to “stand back and simply watch the assault”.

A second investigation highlighted a case of grievous bodily harm on January 1, this year. PC Metcalfe told the meeting police identified the suspect as a man working as a doorman at the bar. It was found that he was unlicensed and when Mr Hassani was asked for the suspect’s details, PC Metcalfe said he could only provide a nickname and a phone number as he had not recorded his details properly, despite the doorman having worked there for a number of months.

The neighbourhood sergeant for the St Neots area, Rob Streater, said he felt the pandemic had “masked” some of the problems, due to the bar having to shut at times over the last two years.

In a statement submitted to the sub-committee, Sergeant Streater said: “There is no doubt in my mind that alcohol fuelled crime and disorder will continue to occur if the location is not addressed and the licensing is not addressed."

Representatives of the freeholders Wells and Co, also spoke at the meeting in support of the licence being revoked.

They said: “We have a reputation of supporting what we call partners, and what you might call tenants.
“We work closely with the police, but we don’t have operational control or responsibility under the licensing act. When issues arise we try and help where we can. At the same time we stand up for our partners if we don’t agree with the police, frequently there are differences of opinion.

“This is the first time a licence has ever come up requesting revocation, that we have not been able to support one of our partners. We have worked with Mr Hassani for over 15 years. We have tried to work with the police and Mr Hassani to resolve some issues that have been raised, to the degree we are able.
“We have seen a lack of seriousness on Mr Hassani’s part, he sees this as a bit of paper.

“We were not aware of most of these [incidents], but we are extremely concerned there have already been serious incidents and that more serious incidents might occur is the biggest danger.”

They added that when the review was requested by the police, Wells and Co issued a forfeiture notice.
The representatives also explained the company had applied for a new licence for the bar in order to protect their asset, which they said has been granted to them.

Two statements were sent to the district council supporting Mr Hassani, explaining they personally had not witnessed any trouble. One of the statements said: “Over the last 15-plus years I have regularly been frequenting this public house, I have always found its landlord, Mr Omar Hassani, a very hospitable host who caters for a wide range of clientele of all ages.

“Customers of this venue include sports fans, karaoke singers and revellers who enjoy music and dance.
“No other pub in the town centre offers such a diverse range of attractions and entertainment, and to lose them, in my opinion, as a result of an extremely uncommon breakdown in public order would be a disproportionate price to pay for the overwhelming majority of its well-behaved and orderly patrons.”

After listening to all of the representations, the sub-committee moved into a closed session to discuss and decide what to do.

The sub-committee ultimately decided to revoke the licence. In its decision notice it said: “The sub-committee formed the view that the premises licence holder had been supported by and had received advice from the licensing authority, Cambridgeshire Constabulary, Security Industry Authority, Huntingdonshire Business Against Crime, and the brewery Wells and Co, to enable the full terms and conditions of the licence to be complied with so that the four licensing objectives are met, and that the premises licence holder had failed to fully engage with these organisations and act upon the advice provided.

“The evidence further suggested that the premises licence holder did not engage or assist Cambridgeshire Constabulary with any investigation.”

Mr Hassani can appeal against the decision to the Magistrates Court within 21 days of the decision being made.