Fakenham Garden House set to shut for six weeks by licensing councillors

A Fakenham pub and nightclub looks set to be n shut for six weeks by officials and given extra conditions on its licence to help 'clean up its act.'

The Garden House in Bridge Street was at the centre of a string of anti-social behaviour problems ranging from drunkenness to assault, councillors were told at a hearing to review its licence called by the police.

Despite pub bosses saying they were trying to deal with the issues, North Norfolk licensing sub-committee chairman Philip High said the current conditions were not being met, resulting in locals living in 'intolerable circumstances.'

The Garden House has until August 3 to launch an appeal and is allowed to stay open until that date.Spokesman for the owners Brian Hardie said the pending suspension - seemed like a 'punishment' with no reason given for it.

'It is damaging to the company, and it's staff but we will re-launch later and adhere to all the licence conditions,' he added.

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Police Sgt Sarah Blyth outlined a long list of problems in the area, many of which were 'closely connected' to the Garden House - such as drunks in the street, people urinating and being sick and drunkenness in the pub itself.

Incidents included 20 drunks fighting, youths setting off a flare inside the premises, a male pulling down his trousers to expose his genitals and 'an 18-year-old girl so drunk her clothes were falling down and she had soiled herself.'

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There were often not the three doormen required at weekends, and despite police and council officials talking to the management, conditions were still not being met, said Sgt Blyth. There was also evidence of drug taking in the toilets.

Police spokesman Andy Owens said the review was a chance for the pub and its bosses to 'clean up their act' following 19 breaches of the licence since a meeting between the authorities and owners in November.

The managers had 'pushed the boundaries' and blighted the lives of people living in the area.

Brian Hardie, representing pub owners Horizon Inns and manager Jon George, said it was wrong to say the place was badly managed and had taken no action.

There were incidents of Mr George and doormen dealing with issues such as the 11pm last entry time, noise from music, and there was a 'zero tolerance drugs policy and wall handbags searched at weekends.'

There were times when fewer than three doormen were working because the 30-60 people turning up on the Friday did not warrant the full complement, and a council official had hinted there was room for discretion.

Mr Hardie said the Garden House 'gets the blame' for incidents in Bridge Street, but admitted the licence review was a 'wake up call' and management took it seriously.

Horizon Inns, which also runs the Racecourse pub near Norwich, is part of the Stalham-based Richardsons group which runs a boat fleet, five holiday parks, four pubs, a bowling alley and a family entertainments centre in the region with 600 staff.

They were major operators in the hospitality world and Mr George had 30 years' experience, added Mr Hardie.

Mr Owens said the flip side to that was they 'should be fully aware of what a licence means.'

The extra conditions include toilet checks, barring anyone declining a bag search, use of plastic glasses at weekends, no drinks to be taken outside after 8pm at weekends, a detailed log of door staff and the spraying of WD40 on all surfaces capable of being used for drugs misuse.

After the hearing Sgt Blyth added: 'This is a positive result for the community concerns regarding anti social behaviour and disorder which have previously been linked to the premises.

'This success has meant that the licensing conditions will now be fit for purpose and will assist in reducing crime and disorder in that area. The decision sends a clear message to the businesses in the North Norfolk district that licence conditions must be adhered to.

'We will always seek to work with other premises in a similar position prior to using the official review process. However, if anti social behaviour and crime and disorder in a particular area do not improve then we will be forced to follow this route again.'

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