Ilford pub keeps licence after promise to replace management

An Ilford pub that “repeatedly” stayed open after hours has held on to its licence after its owner agreed to push out the current managers.

The General Havelock, in High Road, Ilford, was temporarily closed on 5th August after police concerns sparked an urgent review of its licence.

These included landlord Giorgios Balisani repeatedly keeping the pub open beyond its licensed hours despite several crimes being reported outside and a police warning in June this year.

Redbridge Council’s licensing committee has now suspended the pub’s licence for three months and ruled that its previous operators, estranged couple Georgios Balisani and Yvette Kruger, can no longer be linked to the pub “in any capacity”.

The General Havelock will not be allowed to reopen until its owner Blue Star Pubs repossesses the pub and finds a new operator.

In a written decision published after a hearing on August 31, the committee said there have been “evident failings” in Balisani’s management and “admitted neglect” of duties by his wife Kruger which meant neither were appropriate licensees.

The decision said: “The sub-committee recognise that the pub is an historically significant feature of Ilford, and important to the area.

“They feel that the evident failings in the way it has been run recently were due to a problem of management rather than the premises themselves.”

The committee added that it is important to balance the pub’s benefit to the community with the need to comply with the licensing objectives, which include the prevention of crime and disorder.

Andrew Cochrane, a representative of Blue Star Pubs offered to “wipe the slate clean” by installing a new management and employee team, a plan which was supported by the police and council.

Balisani claimed it was a “lie” that the criminal allegations reported were connected to the pub but agreed to step down “for the sake of my kids”.

Kruger, who is the pub’s secretary and is separated from Balisani, offered to take over the pub’s management and claimed she had no idea about the recent issues.

She added: “The relationship had broken down so far there was no communication at all.

“The fact that he lives at the pub as well… I don’t know what hours he comes or goes, I was literally doing the dogsbody work.”

However, the committee found Kruger was “not an appropriate candidate” because she had been unaware of any of the issues.

The committee also heard that an allegation of rape at the bin area outside the pub, which brought the after-hours issues to the police’s attention, has now been withdrawn by the complainant.

The pub’s warning from police in June followed two separate allegations of serious assault in May, both at about 3:30am, about two hours after the pub is required to close on weekends.

Ahead of the licensing hearing four members of public wrote to the council to support The General Havelock in keeping its licence.

Local resident Paul Scott wrote: “I have always found the pub to be a friendly and welcoming place where I have never had any trouble as the vast majority of customers here are usually well behaved.”

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Josh Mellor

Local Democracy Reporter