A pub faces having its licence suspended after being accused of encouraging mass gatherings at a time when there were hundreds of deaths a day from Covid-19.
Residents living near The Cricketers in Mill Green, near Fryerning, say their grievances relate to noise disturbance and anti-social behaviour from the increased numbers and use of the rear beer garden.
Recently, they say, they witnessed unprecedented noise nuisance and anti-social behaviour on the green opposite the pub and in the surrounding area, caused by customers using the pub’s takeaway service.
Brentwood Borough Council had been set to decide the fate of the pub, owned by Gray & Sons, and its designated premises supervisor Rupert Cherryman, at a meeting on Tuesday, September 15. But this has now been postponed to a later date.
The Licensing Sub-Committee can do nothing with the licence, modify the conditions of the premises licence – including adding new conditions, exclude a licensable activity from its scope, remove the Designated Premises Supervisor or suspend the licence for a period not exceeding three months.
There have been ten representations received from residents supporting the application seeking the review of the licence.
Generally, they are supportive of the premises as a country pub, but are unhappy with the current management of the premises.
One resident said in representations: “We have been affected by events at The Cricketers, especially from noise of events in the garden and the activities over the Covid period where the pub was selling takeaway food and drink and customers were consuming on the village green.
“The crowds, noise, rubbish and antisocial behaviour was a huge disruption to our lives and the situation is making it uncomfortable to be in our own home.”
He cites two occasions during the peak of the pandemic when large groups were alleged to have gathered on the green outside The Cricketers with little social distancing – on Friday, May 29, when the UK registered 177 deaths and June, 26, when the UK registered 186 deaths.
He wrote in his submissions: “On this particular evening (May 29) I returned home from work and was shocked to see so many people on such a small piece of common land opposite the pub.
“There were lots of parked cars. Some people were standing in the road drinking.
“Some had taken to helping themselves to pub furniture and placing on the green opposite, while they sat around eating and drinking.”
In another example from June 26, he wrote: ”I returned home to find over 200 people were gathered on the green opposite The Cricketers with little or no social distancing. Many had been drinking all afternoon.
“I heard raised voices in aggressive tones from the front of the pub while sitting in our back garden which interrupted our conversation.
“About 15 minutes later sirens were heard and we went to the front of our house. Two police cars and about six police officers attended and went into the pub. Many of the drinkers drove off and left. The officer later said a member of the bar staff had been attacked.”
Another neighbour said he blamed Rupert Cherryman – the landlord – for the problems.
He said: “The stress and angst caused to my family by Mr Cherryman and Gray’s and Sons by refusing to adhere to any sort of moral or social compass has been immeasurable, and to such an extent that we no longer feel able to remain in our “forever home” and have decided to market the property for sale.
“If my young daughter is too scared to enter her own garden on rowdy afternoons clearly something is majorly wrong.”
Another submission added: “During the lockdown period of 2020, a time when the village were pulling together to support its most vulnerable members, the situation at The Cricketers pub became dangerous and intolerable.
“The number of people attending the pub for takeaway alcohol became uncontrollable and frightening at a time of a global pandemic. The crowds at times reached between 100 and 200. There was zero social distancing, it was totally unsafe and certainly not compliant with government guidelines.”
There have also been ten representations received in support of The Cricketers and the current management of the premises.
The letters of support claim that the investment and improvements made to the premises has had a positive impact and makes The Cricketers a valuable asset to the community.
One wrote: “We have been coming to the pub for over 30 years and when Rupert took over he has improved the situation and ambience.
“Since lockdown has ended we have enjoyed a couple of meals and outings with our family and we have never witnessed any problem over the years.
“We deem this to be our local and would be very upset if Rupert’s licence was withdrawn.”
Another added: “Many have forgotten that it had become a sad, tired, empty old place as the previous landlords struggled both with finances and lack of customers. Suddenly a keen, enthusiastic new broom arrived. Along with Grays, he spent a vast amount of money on the renovations and locals flooded back. The atmosphere is great and personally I have never witnessed any trouble.
“Covid has been a strange time for us and when undesirables flooded onto the common I completely understand how tensions mounted.
“I felt dreadfully sorry for the neighbours, it must have been a nightmare with litter and antisocial behaviour on their doorsteps.
“Hopefully that is all over now and I know measures have been taken to quieten the pub’s garden.
“I fear relations with immediate neighbours are beyond repair, however personally I feel it would be a travesty if Rupert Cherryman lost his licence.”
The Cricketers was contacted for comment.