Derby City Council

Future of ‘The Hairy Dog’ depends on the Magistrates’ Court appeal

The proceedings against The Hairy Dog resulted from an “Application for a Review of the Premises Licence” under the Licensing Act 2003; this was brought by a Senior Environmental Health Officer employed by Derby City Council (The Licensing Authority), on 1st June 2018. This led to the hearing of the General Licensing Sub-Committee ( made up of 3 Councillors), on 24th July 2018.

The application cited that on 3rd May 2018, at Southern Derbyshire Magistrates Court both HKB Enterprises Ltd ( company that runs The Hairy Dog), and Paul Keenan ( Designated Premises Supervisor [DPS] – day to day manager) pleaded guilty to 1 offence, and 3 offences, respectively, under the Licensing Act of allowing unauthorised licensable activities , namely pro-wrestling from June 2017 – October 2017. Both parties were fined.

[HKB Enterprises Ltd has 1 shareholder/director – Helen Butler who, in the documents is referred to as Paul Keenan’s “partner”. Keenan has no legal involvement with the company. HKB runs The Hairy Dog; the property is rented from a private landlord]

The application stated:

The application made no reference to any history of anti-social behaviour, or whether it was better, or worse for crime than other parts of the City Centre.

The only document tabled, representing Mr Keenan’s position was a licence application (closing submission) from February 2016.

The sub-committee heard supporting details from Derbyshire Constabulary of an incident (together with CCTV footage) at The Hairy Dog on 15th April 2018.  At the time they considered this one incident as of such significance that it would have merited a review application in itself; this was deferred pending the outcome of the court case on 3rd May ( re: wrestling show related offences). Further references were presented relating to other occasions in the past few years when the Police had cause to attend the venue; these visits also highlighted further infringements of the licence obligations

In the summing up:

“Ms Clover ( representing the licensee – HKB Enterprises) argued that revocation of the licence would be draconian and would have no effect in upholding the licensing objectives. It was further stated that Mr Keenan had already been duly punished for breaching his licensing conditions by the Magistrates Court and that he had been otherwise compliant with the responsible authorities. In relation to the incident on 15 April 2018, it was stated that this constituted an unusual event in a comparatively trouble free premises. It was reiterated that replacement of Mr Keenan as the DPS was the appropriate course of action and that an application to this effect was already in process.” [My emphases]

The Committee, as the Licensing Authority (Derby City Council) said:

“….that revocation of the licence was appropriate and proportionate, given the alleged disregard for legal authorities demonstrated by the DPS. Moreover, it was argued that replacement of the DPS would not have the desired effect of enforcing the licensing objectives as they believed Mr Keenan would likely remain involved with the business”

It is evident from reading the  400+ page bundle that there is a long history of issues around non-compliance, with license and security regulations.

An Investigations Officer from the Security Industry Authority visited the Hairy Dog on 15 June 2018 to check compliance with the Private Security Industry Act 2001. The door staff are employed by the Hairy Dog ( abeit when questioned they didn’t know their status). The report confirmed:

“In accordance with s3 PSIA 2001 this would mean that Paul Keenan would need a valid SIA license in order to manage and deploy the 2 door staff.

I can confirm that Paul Douglas Keenan 8/12/1966 does not hold a valid SIA licence. I can also confirm that he has not held an SIA or have an active application for a licence”

The Police’s concerns over Mr Keenan were presented. Their frustration is evident in this letter from April 2015.

Jason Dickens, Deputy Chairman of Derby City Pubwatch, sent a letter for inclusion at the hearing, dated 20th July 2018. Pubwatch has 40 members in the City Centre which:

“promotes a safe and secure environment through the effective communication and prompt reporting of anti-social behaviour and criminal activity”

It is voluntary arrangement and not part of any licensing conditions. For a fee of £100pa members can have access to a radio system which connects the venue to the CCTV control room, Street pastors, and Police Licensing Officers.

 

Finances

The committee didn’t touch on the financial viability of HKB Enterprises ( Hair Dog). At 30 June 2017 ( 2018 accounts not yet available), HKB was in debt by nearly £79k, having lost £40k in that year. Essentially, it means that the business would have to liquidate/go into administration, if the creditors called in their debts.

Comment

This case is not underpinned by whether the Hairy Dog is a safe place to go, or whether it has more or less trouble than anywhere else in the City. There are many people who will testify that they feel that it is a great place to enjoy an evening, but that is not the issue. It was entirely around the assessment of the competence of Mr Keenan to operate an establishment in line with the conditions of the licence. In the opinion of the Committee, he’s not.

The Hairy Dog’s representative, Ms Clover, stated that replacing Mr Keenan as DPS was “appropriate” and an application had already been submitted to effect this. This seemed like a workable compromise that would allow the Hairy Dog to continue (run by HKB Enterprises), however the Committee felt that Keenan would still be too involved in daily operations which would jeopardise whether the 4 Licensing objectives would be met.

The matter is no longer with the Council, or the Police, it is with the Magistrates Court should HKB/Mr Keenan wish to appeal. They have to do this by 21st August. The appeal will be on the basis of whether he is a “fit and proper” person to have an influence over the Hairy Dog. Chris Williamson MP writing to the local Police Divisional Commander will have zero effect as the Police don’t have a vote on this matter…and he will know this ( but it makes for good electioneering).

Without a doubt, if The Hairy Dog had to close, then it would be a great loss to the City and the vitality of the local music scene.

Convincing the Magistrates that the licence conditions will be strictly adhered to, in the future, is the only way to “Save The Hairy Dog”.

Postscript

If an appeal is not submitted on the 21st August then the licence will be revoked at that point. If an appeal is submitted, the licence will be valid until the date of the hearing..and beyond if the hearing is successful!

 

 

 

 

Categories: Derby City Council

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