Troubled Chelmsford pub The Bay Horse keeps licence… with conditions

A Chelmsford pub plagued by violence can keep its licence despite a mass brawl last month that left three people seriously injured.

The decision was taken after a meeting convened to decide the fate of the Bay Horse revealed how an “arms-length” relationship and management clashes caused the running of the venue to go “rapidly downhill”.

The licence will not be revoked, but Chelmsford City Council has imposed conditions including no amplified music to be played in outdoor parts of the premises.

The designated premises supervisor Gary Manion has been removed from the licence and the premises is not to be occupied, managed, directed, controlled or otherwise run by Mr Manion, his agents, the Manion Group or anyone associated with them.

Several conditions proposed by Essex Police in their application for a summary review have been included in the revised licence including stopping any new customers from entering the pub after 11pm.

Brewing giant Greene King had been forced to defend its position against allegations that its hands-off approach to the Moulsham Street pub led to “violence, drug dealing and underage drinking”.

The list of allegations levelled against The Bay Horse included knife-wielding customers, a customer left with a fractured skull and fights involving up to 50 people, with a meeting to decide its fate held on Monday September 7.

The premises licence is held by the Spirit Pub Company (Services) Limited, part of the Greene King group, which handed the day-to-day operations to Moulsham Properties and Steve Webb.

When Mr Webb fell ill, the operation of the license was left to Manion Group Ltd, under the direction of Gary Manion, leading to clashes during lockdown between Mr Manion and a Webb family member.

Essex Police licence officer Gordon Ashford told Chelmsford City Council’s licensing committee that although Greene King are the licence holders, they “have no day-to-day control of the premises whatsoever”.

He added: “They have no direct mechanism to ensure the operation of the premises is in accordance with the licensing act and the objectives of the licensing act.

“They have no direct oversight.

“So we have a remote license holder which is absent and unlike a normal tenant in a pub situation, they cannot control the management of the pub and this ultimately has led to this sorry state of affairs.”

Four people were taken to hospital after the mass brawl last month and Essex Police filed for a review of the pub’s license.

In a report published ahead of the meeting, Essex Police claimed that “the venue staff and management have lost control of the premises.”

Since July, police have been repeatedly called to the pub for a number of large scale disturbances.

A number of serious allegations are made in the documents, including through witness statements offered by police officers.

Although there has been a series of other incidents, the event that ultimately triggered the license review happened on Sunday, August 9.

At 12.14am, police were called to The Bay Horse to reports of a large fight where a glass was being used as a weapon.

The fight happened in the car park of the pub, and resulted in three men being taken to hospital with serious injuries.

One man was arrested suspected of being in possession of an offensive weapon.

Body camera footage from the night captured a huge brawl, as well as glass smashing and people screaming.

One of the men taken to hospital suffered a fractured skull and two others suffered fractured cheek bones, the documents say.

One officer also said that one of those involved in the fight inhaled a substance from a Nitrous Oxide cannister before the brawl.

Since June, Essex Police say it has been called to the pub 11 times for a number of different reasons.

These include other fights of between 20 and 50 people.

As well as these disturbances, police were alerted to reports of social distancing measures being ignored, an assault on a member of door staff, reports of drug dealing and drug taking inside the pub, smashed windows and more.

There have also been allegations that underage drinking regularly takes place at the pub, with children as young as 15-year-old being identified as having been drinking at the venue.

Chelmsford City Council agreed not to revoke The Bay Horse licence.

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Piers Meyler

Local Democracy Reporter