Manager's 'deep regret' over lockdown party which closed well-known Yorkshire pub

A bar manager has expressed “deep regret” for co-hosting a lockdown party which resulted in the closure of a well-known pub in Leeds city centre.

Tracy O’Boyle, who ran and lived above The Duncan with her partner in the city centre, was one of six people given verbal police warnings over the gathering in April 2020.

Officers claimed her partner, Peter McKenna, wiped CCTV footage of the premises, which when later recovered showed evidence of a Covid breach.

As a result the authorities stopped the Samuel Smith’s boozer on Duncan Street from later reopening, a licensing hearing was told on Tuesday.

The former Duncan pub in Leeds city centre

Details of the gathering emerged as police tried to stop Miss O’Boyle from taking charge of The Old Halfway House pub, in the Robin Hood area of the city.

Both she and Mr McKenna have already been working at the Leeds Road venue for several weeks.

Revealing details of the incident from April 18, 2020, PC Catherine Arkle told the hearing that officers arrived at The Duncan to find “20 pints and drinks scattered over the bar”.

She told councillors: “When the police knocked on the door, having heard loud music and shouting, people were hiding. Eventually when police gained access they (the people inside) were very anti-police. A seventh person ran off from the back of the pub.”

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The pub’s managers had initially claimed the other individuals had been decorating and while PC Arkle said there was evidence “work of some kind” had taken place, “it had also turned into a bit of a party.”

It was said Mr McKenna had told officers the CCTV had been switched off at the mains because of the decorating. However, after the hard drive was seized and forensically analysed, a deleted file was recovered, showing evidence of the breach.

PC Arkle added: “The CCTV was wiped. There was a lack of trust and and there was dishonesty there. How can you trust these people to run a pub again? I’ve worked with them both for a long time. They’ve been good at running a difficult pub in The Duncan.

“They’ve made mistakes and we haven’t overlooked those, but in those cases we’ve not taken action. But this was the final straw, the wiping of the CCTV.”

PC Arkle said that after showing the footage to Samuel Smith’s the couple were sacked.

However, Miss O’Boyle told the hearing the brewery had offered them a transfer to a London pub, but that after the pair declined the move, their employment with the firm ended.

She also strongly denied having been involved in deleting the CCTV footage.

She said: “I was not the DPS (designated premises supervisor). I didn’t delete it. I have trouble working my phone. It’s Pete who should be here, not me. I wouldn’t stand for anything like that. Pete has totally changed but I’m not here for Pete, I’m here for me.”

Asked later for her reflections on the lockdown party, Miss O’Boyle: “It’s something I deeply, deeply regret. We were in Covid and it was horrible, just getting worse and worse. I’m deeply sorry and I absolutely regret it. We made big mistakes.

“Later I lost two family members to Covid so I’ve been paid back, let’s say. But I didn’t delete the CCTV.”

In happier times just one month before lockdown, Leeds United director of football Victor Orta had celebrated a 1 – 0 win over Reading with supporters at the pub, as The Whites headed for promotion to the Premier League.

The leaseholders of The Old Halfway House initially wanted Mr McKenna to be the DPS, who has day-to-day responsibility for running the pub.

However, after the police objected to this, they changed the application and proposed Miss O’Boyle as the DPS instead.

But the police objection remained in place as a result of the couple’s involvement in the lockdown breach.

A panel of three councillors, who heard the evidence, said a decision on whether or not to allow Miss O’Boyle to run the pub would be announced in writing in the coming days.