Landlord of The Masons Arms in Gargrave loses licence for Covid-19 breaches including hosting a gathering for 30 people

The landlord of a traditional pub has lost his licence after a number of Covid-19 breaches.

John Baker and his partner Nicola Dewsbury pictured inside The Masons Arms in 2012

John Baker, 61, has been suspended from running The Masons Arms in Gargrave, near Skipton, which must now close for for two months following an investigation by Craven Council and a unanimous vote from councillors on its licensing and appeals sub-committee.

Mr Baker has also had his Designated Premises Supervisor status removed and has been issued with a written warning which will remain on file for a year.

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North Yorkshire Police applied for the licence to be reviewed on the grounds of prevention of crime and disorder.

The hearing on April 15 heard from PC Jackie Allen and Sergeantt Jackie Booth as well as the council’s licensing and environmental health officers. A local resident spoke in support of Mr Baker, who was represented by his solicitor Christopher Grunert.

The review focused on two incidents that took place at the premises. The first was on November 4, 2020, when a party attended by around 30 people was held at the pub.

The senior environmental health officer told the committee that the premises had been open after 10pm with around 16 customers still present at 11:46pm. There was no use of face masks by customers or staff, a lack of social distancing, and groups of more than six were sitting at tables in breach of relevant Covid-19 regulations.

There was a further incident on December 23, in which Mr Baker was 'sitting and chatting at a customer’s table’, and two customers were drinking alcohol without a substantial meal. Staff were not wearing masks while serving food, and customers were being served at the bar when rules stipulated table service only. It was indicated that Mr Baker did not challenge customers on any of these occasions.

Police told the committee that they had given advice to the licence holder and attempted to resolve the matter. A Premises Improvement Plan had been agreed in November 2020 but had not been delivered upon. The pub had been issued with two Fixed Penalty Notices - one from North Yorkshire Police on November 12 and one from Craven Council on February 10, both of which had been paid.

Local resident John Dovener told the committee that Mr Baker had done the best he could and that he had always tried to ensure compliance with relevant regulations.

Christopher Grunert accepted that the incident of November 4 was wrong and that it should not be defended, but maintained it was of a different nature to the incident of December 23, and whilst not acceptable, argued that it had to be set against a long record of quiet trading operations in which Mr Baker had held the licence without substantive incident since 2011.

He indicated that Mr Baker would accept being removed as Designated Premises Supervisor and claimed it would be disproportionate to revoke the premises licence fully.

Mr Baker himself addressed the committee to stress his commitment to operating the premises in accordance with relevant licence conditions in the future and that he had been on further training courses with a view to improving his conduct.

However the sub-committee agreed it was appropriate to remove Mr Baker from the role of Designated Premises Supervisor for the pub, and that a suspension of the premises licence for a period of two months was a reasonable and proportionate response and should allow ample time for a new supervisor to be put in place.

Craven Council chief executive Paul Shevlin said: “It’s disappointing and concerning when Covid-19 regulations are breached, especially when our officers have been working hard to ensure that premises around the district have all the information and guidance they need to operate safely.

“We want to make it clear to all hospitality businesses that they must follow the rules and behave responsibly at all times. We need to stay vigilant and observe legislation and guidance to prevent further spread of Covid-19.”

Mr Baker and his partner Nicola Dewsbury have co-owned the pub since 2011.