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Watford FC fans' pub, Yellow and Red Lion in Vicarage Road, faces six-week booze ban
Watford FC fans’ pub is facing a six-week booze ban after police presented politicians evidence it was being run in a "cavalier" fashion and had breached its licence.
Officers had caught Yellow and Red Lion pub, in Vicarage Road, operating out of hours and also found children and opposition fans there on match days.
Hertfordshire Constabulary argued Josh Price, premises licence holder, was failing to provide the "strong, effective leadership" they wanted for a pub so close to a football stadium.
The force asked Watford Borough Council’s licensing sub committee to strip the venue of its premises licence.
At a hearing yesterday Mr Price defended his tenure pointing out there had not been single arrest at the Yellow and Red Lion in the more than 30 home matches for which it had been open.
The brother of former Hornets defender Neil Price also queried whether the police had an "ulterior motive" for seeking the licence revocation.
After the meeting Mr Price said he felt the police never wanted the pub to open and were keen to see it shut down.
He said: "I think from everything the police have done they don’t want us there and are doing everything in their power to make sure we are not going to be there."
At the meeting police licensing officer presented the panel of three councillors with evidence including CCTV footage of children in the pub after 7pm and of pub open at 10.30am before its 12pm opening time.
John Corkett, a Hertfordshire Constabulary licence officers, told the panel: "You’ve seen footage of children in the pub and when rival fans drive past the people in the pub can behave in a diabolical way making obscene gestures."
Officers also said the pub had not had the required designated premises supervisor on site when police visited and Nottingham Forest fans had also been found in the pub.
During the hearing, Councillor Malcolm Meerabux reminded Mr Corkett had described Mr Price’s management of the pub as "exemplary" at a licence hearing earlier in February.
He asked what had led him to change his assessment of Mr Price’s stewardship of the pub so dramatically.
Mr Corkett Replied: "Things seem to have gone downhill and changed. Really don’t think he can cope with the responsibility of being the premises licence holder."
He later added: "There seems to be a cavalier attitude to the licensing act."
Police officers also complained about Mr Price’s brother Neil, who is a former Watford FC defender, and his attitude to police when they did walkthroughs of the pub.
Councillors were shown footage of Neil telling a policeman "What do you want?" and then saying "It’s great to see you here".
Mr Price said: "Neil played in the (1984 FA) cup final. He is a bit of an icon and comes in the pub as the fans like him. He can be a nightmare admittedly, but he does feel we are unfairly treated by the police."
Josh Price told the committee he accepted responsibility opening the pub before hours but said the breaches were honest mistakes and that there had been hardly any trouble at the pub since it opened.
He said: "I opened early. I should not have done that. It was an honest mistake and if there is any comeback I will take that on the chin.
"But If I am running the pub so dreadfully and abysmally, well I don’t know what to say."
Mr Price also said the only minor trouble had come when police had allowed coaches carrying away fans to pull up next to the pub’s beer garden.
He added: "We had the coach pull up and a whole load of Leeds fans looking down into the pub at the Watford FC fans. They were putting their bottoms on the window and making gestures. That was inciting."
Mr Price said that had this caused the Watford fans to throw a few plastic glasses at the coach but that police had later admitted they should have not let the coach park so close.
The pub also faced criticism from Watford Borough Council over flytipping incidents linked to the venue.
Philip White, Watford environmental crime officer, said last year Red Lion-branded bags of rubbish had been dumped in Tolpits Lane.
Then in July scores of old tyres were left on the land adjoining the pub, which the management was slow to move.
Mr Price said it the pub was unlikely to flytip using bags with the pub’s name and address on.
He added: "The previous owner the football club, Laurence Bassini, owns the free hold of the pub and because of the way he left the club the supporters don’t really like him.
"If someone wants to be difficult and take the bags we have and cause us a problem, they can do that. We are not going to do that, it just beggars belief.
Commenting on the tyres, Mr Price said: "I don’t know who put them there. If we did it, it would cost us a huge, huge problem and cost us a lot of money. Why would we do that?"
At the end of hearing Police Sergeant Mark Bilsdon told councillors the force still wanted the premises licence revoked.
He said: "Josh has always been well-meaning and has said he is willing to work with us as premises supervisor. But since it opened all the mistakes have been made while he was premises supervisor.
"It is the opinion of us that we want a strong, effective leadership and management of the pub. "We are concerned that going forward we can’t be sure that will be the case and that’s why we are seeking a revocation of the licence."
Later in the hearing, Mr Price addressed the police officers present and asked: "Do you want to squeeze and squeeze and squeeze what we are doing here? Is there an ulterior motive?"
The panel suspended the pub’s licence for six weeks and imposed an additional licence condition requiring additional door supervision on match days.
The pub has 21 days to appeal against the ban. The suspension will not come into force until after that period has expired or an unsuccessful appeal has been heard.
Mr Price has said he intends to appeal the suspension.
Following the meeting, Councillor George Derbyshire, the chairman of the licensing sub committee, said: "There was clear evidence of licence breaches and from the point of view of the licensing committee we could not overlook these. People would expect us to take action. But we stopped short of revoking the licence."
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