City bar loses licence after 'serious and dangerous' Covid breach

Bedfords Bar in Norwich

Bedfords Bar in Norwich - Credit: Archant

A Norwich bar and entertainment venue has been stripped of its licence in a unanimous decision following a breach of Covid-19 regulations.

Bedfords, on Old Post Office Yard, has been the subject of a licence review as a result of an incident on November 4, the day before the country went into its second national lockdown.

Norwich City Council's licensing committee reconvened following a six-hour debate last Friday and took six minutes to make the decision saying the event was a "serious and dangerous public safety incident".

Ian Stutely, councillor for Town Close Ward, who has worked with local residents to call for better

Ian Stutely, councillor for Town Close Ward, who has worked with local residents to call for better security measures. Picture: Labour Party - Credit: Labour Party

Ian Stutely, the committee's chairman, said: "The determination is to revoke the licence. The committee's decision is unanimous. 

"The event at Bedfords Bar on 4 November 2020, as depicted in video content that has been shared on social media and by local news outlets, was a serious and dangerous public safety incident. 

"We cannot be sure they were symptomatic or asymptomatic people infected with Covid at this venue on that night and if they were whether subsequent infections led to serious illness or death amongst the wider population in our city. It is know that such behaviour can and does lead to those outcomes and many people died in the UK and locally since this time. 

"It is why restrictions were in place and why they were set to be extended the following day. The committee viewed additional footage from inside the venue and heard further evidence that demonstrated similar behaviour considered dangerous to public safety was apparently routine amongst staff and certain customers at this venue.

"It is deeply worrying, and in our view that public health concerns have not been adequately acknowledged by the licensee or management.

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"It is even more concerning that no serious attempt was made to bring a serious public safety situation under control and that staff and management were seen to be wilfully participating. The committee was not assured the licensee had taken the legislation seriously and we cannot be sure it would not reoccur.

Mr Stutely said there had been incidents where members of the public reporting the incident were being blamed for the hearing taking place, and names of individuals had been shared and targeted with abuse.

The chairman said: "This is wrong and it must stop now. 

"This hearing was convened and a determination reached because of a serious breach took place." 

A Norwich City Council spokesman added: "We hope this sends a message to others that breaching the regulations will be dealt with robustly to ensure everyone’s safety.

“Thank you to the public and the overwhelming majority of businesses that have continued to follow and respect all the Covid-19 government restrictions.”

During Friday's meeting, the committee watched footage filmed at the venue on November 4 , the day before the country went into lockdown.

As the venue was preparing to close, around 30 people stood up in the bar and started singing, dancing and hugging - despite strict social distancing being a requirement for pubs. 

Following the meeting, the owners of Bedfords Bar were contacted for comment. 

An announcement on the bar's Facebook page said: "The decision went against us and our licence has been revoked. We are entitled to appeal and we will be meeting with our legal team and barrister next week to decide what course of action we will take."

Bedfords Bar Facebook page statement

A screenshot of the announcement from the owners following the decision. - Credit: Facebook

Speaking at last week's meeting, Glenn Carr, owner of Bedfords, said: "I will admit that working with the sporadic details which came from the government, with the rules constantly changing, made it very difficult to know what we should and shouldn't be doing.

"I'm not looking for excuses, the incident on November 4 was a misjudgement on my part. I made a mistake and I admit it, but with all the best will in the world we do our very best and I have always put the safety and wellbeing of my staff at the forefront of everything we do."

Tom Stainer, chief executive of Campaign For Real Ale (CAMRA) said in addition to bars and pubs acting responsibly, customers had an important part to play by following the rules.

He said: "With the vast majority of pubs and bars making a huge effort and investment in making their premises COVID-secure and the safest place to socialise, it's absolutely right that that tiny minority of premises which do not act responsibly are held to account."