Harrogate pub Coach and Horses loses licence over lockdown breaches

The Coach and Horses has been in the Nelson family since the 1980sThe Coach and Horses has been in the Nelson family since the 1980s
The Coach and Horses has been in the Nelson family since the 1980s
A Harrogate pub which has been trading since 1864 has had its alcohol licence revoked after customers broke lockdown regulations.

Over 40 people complained to Harrogate Council after spotting drinkers gathering in large groups outside the Coach and Horses, on West Park, during the warm May Bank Holiday weekend.

Police and council staff visited the pub several times and landlord John Nelson, 64, told them he would only remove the outdoor furniture if he was served a prohibition notice. One was handed to him on May 31.

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The decision to revoke his licence was made yesterday at Harrogate Borough Council's licensing committee meeting.

Coun Victoria Oldham said the pub's 'serious failure' showed a 'blatant disregard' of the lockdown rules, which at the time allowed the sale of takeaway alcohol, but not for consumption on any pub premises or outdoor area.

North Yorkshire Police also called for the pub's licence to be revoked. The pub has been in the Nelson family for over 30 years.

PC Jackie Allen told councillors the force had received 44 complaints about customers at the pub breaking social distancing rules, saying they 'caused alarm and distress to the local community'.

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Photos were widely shared on social media of crowds congregating outside the pub.

Councillors also heard how council staff had faced verbal abuse from drinkers, with one customer following officers back to their cars.

Bar stools, beer barrels and chairs were set up outside the pub across four days on the Bank Holiday weekend, with CCTV footage showing the furniture was still used after the prohibition notice was served.

A lawyer for Mr Nelson said he accepted that he made a 'chronic error of judgement'.

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He added the pub had been serving takeaway beer as part of a fundraiser for a local charity, Horticap, and selling flowers and drinks.

The charity has distanced itself from the pub's actions and refused to accept the £3,000 that was raised.

Mr Nelson's lawyer said: “He is chronically embarrassed that this is in the public domain. He regrets it hugely.”

Yet the publican was defiant in an interview with the Harrogate Advertiser prior to the hearing - dismissing the saga as 'petty nonsense' and calling council staff 'jobsworths'.

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Harrogate Borough Council leader Coun Richard Cooper said the council was fully supportive of the re-opening of bars and pubs but would not tolerate abuse of its staff.

He said: "I think Mr Nelson needs to realise that abusing key workers who were doing their job protecting the public is unacceptable.

"Council staff were abused when they visited his premises to ask him to desist from his unsafe activities and then he abused them again in the local paper describing them as ‘petty jobsworths’.

"Whatever the outcome of the license hearing, Mr Nelson needs to apologise for this abuse of key workers.”

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Mr Nelson claimed that he had made efforts to ensure that customers kept their distance from each other.

He said: “Our pavements were clear. I had placed an A-board on the road at the side door of the pub saying 'do not stand in front of this pub or on the surrounding pavements'.

“On Sunday I decided to put some chairs and stools on the grass verge opposite the pub for the benefit and comfort of the people.

"Chairs and stools were placed at least two metres apart.

“At around 3pm I was visited by two jobsworths from Harrogate Borough Council.

“It’s petty nonsense and we have better things to do.”

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The 19th-century pub is known for its real ale selection and prime location overlooking the Stray.

Mr Nelson and his daughter Sam were even featured in The Daily Telegraph during lockdown, with the newspaper referring to their temporary conversion into a garden centre as 'the hanging gardens of Harrogate'.

Horticap, a local plant nursery run by people with learning disabilities, supplied plants and tea and coffee were served alongside them. All proceeds were to be donated to the charity, whose patron is Alan Titchmarsh.

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