Fight leads to summary review – what’s next?
Q: I run a busy city centre bar that trades until 3am at the weekends. During the last bank holiday weekend, I ran an event at the premises that involved the use of a promoter.
The event ran smoothly until about 2am when a fight started inside the premises. It initially only involved a few individuals but many others joined in and the door staff were unable to deal with the situation. We had to call the police.
A large number of police officers attended and eventually managed to get everyone out of the premises but there was then a stand-off between a large group of individuals and the police outside. It took the police a couple of hours to deal with the situation and disperse the crowd. The police have told me they are going to apply for a summary review. What does this mean?
A: Unfortunately, a summary review is serious and is something the police can do if a senior officer is satisfied that there is serious crime and/or disorder associated with the premises. Once the summary review is served upon you as premises licence holder, you will normally be invited to attend a hearing before the council’s licensing committee within 48 hours so it can consider which ‘interim steps’ should be taken in the run-up to the full review hearing which will happen in due course.
One of the available interim steps is suspension of the licence, which would mean the premises is closed for a few weeks until the full review hearing. It is highly likely the licensing committee will suspend the licence if the police ask for this, which they sometimes do. It is important to take legal advice at the earliest opportunity so all options can be explored in terms of achieving an alternative agreement with the police, which might be presented to the licensing committee.
Ultimately, there can be a significant cost to the business both in terms of any suspension of the licence but also the adverse publicity that necessarily surrounds it.
Q: I run a busy country pub that is heavily food-led and a popular destination for families who come to dine with us in very picturesque surroundings.
Unfortunately, we had a visit from an environmental health officer (EHO), who said he had a complaint from a customer who claims to have seen a mouse in the premises a couple of weeks ago.
The EHO has now conducted a full inspection of the premises, particularly the kitchen, and says he has found evidence of mice infestation and is intending to close the kitchen. This would obviously be incredibly damaging to my business – can he do this?
A: Yes unfortunately, an EHO has the power under food safety legislation to close your kitchen if it presents a significant risk to human health. He will have to apply to the magistrates’ court for what is known as a hygiene emergency protection notice and, although you do have a right to be heard before the magistrates, it is highly likely that the EHO would succeed in obtaining one. It is normally simply a case of the magistrates being shown photographs of the evidence that the EHO has found in the kitchen of mouse activity and that is usually sufficient to persuade the magistrates that closure is a good idea.
If we assume that happens, it is imperative that you work closely with the EHO over the coming days to arrive at a situation where the EHO is satisfied for the kitchen to reopen. This will normally involve a deep clean of the kitchen together with potential remedial works in terms of pest proofing to make sure that mice cannot gain access moving forwards.
Once that has been done, the EHO will normally agree to let you reopen but it is worthy of note that you can still be prosecuted thereafter for the failings that gave rise to the closure in the first place.
As well as further bad publicity, this can lead to significant fines in the magistrates’ court and indeed a criminal record for any company or individuals involved.
For any legal enquiries please visit Poppleston Allen's website.