Court calls time on illegal pub in house garage

MEMBERS of a "camping club" who met in the garage of a house near Barnsley to drink beer as if it was their local pub were breaking the law, magistrates ruled.

The Blacker Hill Camping Club had a bar with draught beer, a flat screen TV, fridges with bottles of cider and soft drinks and stools, tables and chairs, a court heard.

It was run by David Wilkinson, 52, who served up to a dozen regulars, some turning up early afternoon after finishing work.

But last orders were called after a police raid and steelworker Wilkinson was charged with illegally selling alcohol. He denied the offence at trial.

Brendan Glynn, prosecuting, said the club began with drinkers taking cans they had bought elsewhere to drink, but escalated when a bar was fitted.

Last June, during the football World Cup, five 88-pint barrels of lager were drunk in the garage.

About a dozen police officers raided Wilkinson's home and three men were found drinking while his partner was behind the bar.

Mr Glynn said: "This was a room with pumps attached to a bar. Pipes were going into barrels of beer and lager.

"There were stools at the bar and a flat screen TV, tables and chairs. There were fridges. Most members of the public would say this is a description of a pub.

"Mr Wilkinson had a pub in the garage. He was providing somewhere where beer is drunk. He has circumvented the law."

Wilkinson insisted he had done nothing wrong and said drinkers would put a tick on a piece of paper for every pint they had.

They would chip in what they owed when the time came to buy a barrel of lager from a wholesaler. He said there were lots of birthday parties and meetings last June when five barrels were bought.

His solicitor Peter Howard said the nub of the case was whether Wilkinson was selling drink to make a profit and undercut the only village pub.

He said Wilkinson neither sold or owned the beer. "The beer is collectively owned and supplied by camping club members," he said.

But magistrates found Wilkinson guilty and he was fined 1,500 with 600 costs and a 15 victim surcharge.

After the hearing he said it would probably be the end of the camping club.

He said: "We met and had a drink. We weren't doing any harm. There's been no trouble and the neighbours weren't complaining.

"Even my next-door neighbour didn't know anything about it. It was just a group of middle-aged men.

"They usually called here to meet up and have a chat. Some are in their 50s and 60s.

"There probably won't be any more camping."