A troubled Brighton pub had a sideline in hard drugs, councillors were told today (Tuesday 8 December).
The Montpelier Inn had bulk quantities of class A drugs, with “deal bags” in the drip trays under the beer pumps as well as “deal lists” and scales, according to a barrister.
The narcotic trade came to light as police investigated a stabbing outside the Monty, in Montpelier Place, Brighton, on Wednesday 4 November – the night before the latest national coronavirus lockdown.
A fight erupted and, as the brawl spilled out into the street, a man and woman were stabbed.
The man suffered life-threatening injuries and, Sussex Police said, remained in hospital in a serious condition.
The force asked for the pub’s licence to be reviewed and, it said, had found damning evidence of drug dealing at the premises.
But at a Brighton and Hove City Council licensing panel today, the police appeared to have modified their stance after the pub’s previous operators ceded control of the business.
Peter Savill, for Sussex Police, told the licensing panel that the force had initially wanted the licence to be revoked.
But the freeholder, the pub company Ei, had taken over the premises licence from the former operator, Rock and Roller Coaster, which was dissolved as a company on Tuesday 17 November.
And Ei said that it would appoint a new “designated premises supervisor” (DPS) in place of the pub’s former manager Mohamed Ashur, known as Ash.
Mr Savill said: “Police evidence points to the failings on the part of individuals who have now gone.
“That is why the police entered into discussions with the licence holder and have agreed a position.
“The police conditions do not simply touch on drugs and drug-related activity. It’s across the board in all manner of running licensed premises.”
The police proposed tougher conditions including earlier closing times – 11pm most nights and midnight on Thursdays to Saturdays.
But the police and the pub company disagreed on the need for qualified door staff on Friday and Saturday nights, with Ei wanting more flexibility based on risk.
Green councillor Alex Phillips, who represents Regency ward, which includes Montpelier Place, said that the community wanted the pub’s licence revoked and the building turned into flats.
She told the panel that her ward included a sizeable proportion of the city’s pubs and night clubs.
But she and her fellow ward councillor Tom Druitt had never known so many complaints about noise, anti-social behaviour, violence and drugs in relation to any other business.
Councillor Phillips said that they had tried to work with the community and the pub’s former manager but without any improvement.
She said: “Unfortunately, due to the lack of action on behalf of the management of the pub, this community has now experienced a stabbing which emanated from the pub itself.
“It is time for something decisive to be done before more damage is done, more people are hurt and more lives are ruined.”
Councillor Phillips said that residents had often found drug paraphernalia outside the pub and had seen people taking cocaine.
Although she wanted the licence revoked, she asked for rigorous conditions if the pub was allowed to stay in business.
These conditions, supported by residents, include closing the pub for six to eight months, with Ei expected to told the premises licence for two years. Outside drinking should stop at 9.30pm, and no outside furniture should be allowed.
Councillor Phillips also proposed a 10pm closing time rather than 11pm or midnight.
Neighbour Clare Mackie, who has lived locally for 10 years, said that a poorly managed pub had marred a wonderful area.
She said: “I feel the area has been enhanced with the pub being shut. It has been incredibly peaceful.
“The area does not need another pub. This is a very expensive area for property. Selling the Montpelier Inn and turning it into flats would be extremely profitable for the Ei group.
“Central Brighton needs more housing and this is a perfect development opportunity.”
Ms Mackie said that she had lived in Earl’s Court between two pubs in the past and had never experienced the noise levels emanating from the Montpelier.
Another neighbour Tony Machacek, who has lived in the area for 17 years, described himself as a semi-regular at the Montpelier Inn.
He said that the pub was quiet most evenings, often with just a handful of customers, unless there was a big football match.
Mr Machacek said: “A lot of the representations against the pub are from people who live very close to the pub, either next door, right behind or across the road.
“Anybody who moves to live close to a pub has to expect a certain amount of noise, even from a very quiet pub.”
Ei’s barrister Richard Taylor said that the tenant had “trashed the place” when they left the business on Monday 7 December.
Mr Taylor said that Ei would take over running the pub through the management team at its parent business, the Stonegate Pub Company.
He said: “It is absolutely unequivocal that the cause of this review was the previous operator.
“Things have changed. What we need to do is direct our action at those causes. The premises licence holder has gone. The DPS has gone. Ei has addressed the causes by removing the management and putting itself in charge.”
Neighbours had concerns about rowdy customers attracted by the three large Sky Sports screens and asked for a repositioning with “proper pub meals” and no football.
Stonegate licensing director Paul Wright said that if the pub was going to be packed because football was being screened, then door staff would be employed for the evening if necessary.
He said: “We do not find ourselves having issues where we show sport traditionally.
“I do not believe we will have issues when we oversee these premises going forward with sporting fixtures.”
Mr Wright would not commit to stop operating the pub as a sports bar.
The panel retired to make its decision which, its legal adviser said, would be announced the next day.