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Pub 'wants to reopen' despite losing court battle

The operators of a pub which must stay shut after an appeal against the withdrawal of its licence was lost say they are devastated but want to reopen.

Licence holder David McCabe lost his appeal against the removal of the premises licence at the Jolly Judge in Union Street, Torquay.

He had challenged the decision by Torbay Council’s licensing sub-committee but the appeal was turned down at Newton Abbot Magistrates Court.

Mr McCabe, of Plymouth, was ordered to pay the council nearly £14,000 in costs.

Under licensing law the Jolly Judge was able to continue trading until the outcome.

But Mr McCabe, who owns the building, agreed to close the pub in September ahead of the appeal hearing.

The pub was leased to John Sampson and managed by Diane Dixon, who have now spoken out about the case.

They say they had taken action to deal with crime and disorder problems at the pub at the end of 2018 and were devastated by the sudden closure in September.

They are seeking legal advice on what they need to do to be able to reopen.

Police requested the review of the licence in December 2018 on the grounds of crime and disorder. 

Councillors were told at a hearing in February that there had been an increase in incidents and evidence of licence breaches and poor management.

A report to a hearing in February detailed a series of incidents at the premises from 2016 to late 2018.

In one case in June last year, two people were knocked unconscious in a fight involving 20 people.

Another fight in October involving between 10 and 15 people spilled out into the street.

Mr McCabe, of Molesworth Road, Stoke, Plymouth, told the hearing he had appointed Ms Dixon as the new premises supervisor in December to tackle the problems but the sub-committee decided to revoke the licence.

Ms Dixon said after the appeal decision that the pub was starting to rebuild trade this year after a zero tolerance policy on drugs and bad behaviour.

She said troublemakers had been barred and the number of customers fell before starting to grow this year.

The increase in trade was helped by the introduction of home-cooked food.

Ms Dixon said: "It was a massive turn-around. Customers were up, takings were up, and we had regulars from years back coming in.

"We were getting customers recommended from other businesses in the area.

"We offered a clean, friendly atmosphere and a safe place, which was hard to achieve after its previous reputation.

"We had zero tolerance of drugs and bad behaviour. I feel we actually started to provide a community venue.

"When we had to close suddenly, people in the community felt the loss. I have had people offering to get petitions together.

"Basically we want to say to people we are very sorry for the short notice closure with no explanation."

Ms Dixon added: "We are instructing a solicitor now to get some guidance on what the next stage is.

"We are trying to find out how we can get back on a level footing, working with the licensing authorities.

"We feel we have been caught up in the middle of this.

"John has put a lot of money into this and we have lost months of taking.

"If and when we do open, we will be opening from scratch. That is what we want to promise people we will try and do. We are not walking away."

Mr Sampson, 69, who took over the lease last summer, said some of the evidence relating to crime and disorder at the pub was from before he was involved.

He said he had taken action to improve the running of the pub with the support of Ms Dixon who had experience in the licensed trade.

He added: "We hope to get the place open."

Both said they were disappointed not to have had the chance to give evidence of the improvements at the court hearing.

A statement from the court, released by Torbay Council after the appeal was refused on Monday, November 11, said: "The decision to maintain the position whereby the Premises Licence is revoked is not taken as a means of punishment. 

"The revocation of the licence at the Jolly Judge was appropriate and proportionate decision in the light of the evidence, and in order to promote the licensing objectives, in particular the prevention of crime and disorder."

A spokesperson for Torbay Council said: "We do not take these decisions lightly as we want to support businesses and the night time economy.  

"We would always prefer to work with the premises, to ensure compliance, but when the premises licence holder does not respond appropriately to the advice of ourselves or the Police, then we are left with little choice but to act in the public interest. 

"In this case we took decisive action to uphold the law and the licensing objectives, and will do so again should the need arise.”
Mr McCabe has not responded to requests for comment."

By Ed Oldfield, local democracy reporting service

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