Councillors have given a Chapel St Leonards bar owner a strict warning after a business meeting which “turned to more socialising”.
Walter Sheeran, director of Teen Spirit Limited and premises licence holder at Miller’s Bar, appeared before East Lincolnshire District Council’s licensing committee behind closed doors on Monday.
It followed police attending the premises due to loud noises, and finding six people they said were not engaging in social distancing or wearing face coverings and which CCTV showed drinking, getting a food takeaway, drinking shots, watching football and dancing.
A report of the proceedings by ELDC said police officers told committee members the meeting “had been described to them as a business meeting, but in their view the meeting had gone on far longer and some of the attendants were intoxicated and some dancing had taken place.”
Defending the owner, Sarah Clover said it was a meeting, however, “she acknowledged that it may have turned to more socialising”.
She said there had been a “celebration of someone joining the company towards the end” but that those participating “had been talking about business on and off throughout”.
She told the committee all six were on the payroll at the time or were added after and three of them lived in the same household.
The people all worked together on a daily basis and no members of the public were in attendance, she added.
“Miss Clover made representations that the coronavirus regulations did not require business meetings to be concluded as quickly as possible, and there was nothing to prohibit the consumption of alcohol and food whilst in the business meeting,” said a report of the meeting.
She added that the risk factor did not increase “simply because the business element of the meeting finished” and said that businesses were allowed to be open for staff to access for cleaning throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
She added that social distancing and face masks were “not law but in fact guidance”.
In a statement following the meeting Michael Kheng, director of Kurnia Licensing Consultants Limited who represented Teen Spirit Limited, said he was “pleased” by the decision.
“In our mind the licence should never have been called into review and the cost to the company and public purse has been huge. Teen Spirit Limited were simply having a meeting and evidence to prove this was shown to the subcommittee.
“The company cooperated with the investigation throughout and are upset that they felt the police had treated them like criminals for simply trying to run their business and have a legitimate business meeting.”
He said evidence showed “no COVID-19 regulations had been broken”.
Teen Spirit Limited operate several premises in and around Skegness and in almost 30 years Their operations have never been called into question.
Michael Kheng added that he felt far too often reviews of premises licences were being applied “wrongly”. “The overall costs for all parties are huge,” he said.
“The hospitality industry has suffered enormously over the past 12 months and to have to face an unnecessary review is another pressure on a business.”