Published: 18:15, 29 October 2019
| Updated: 19:04, 29 October 2019
A pub which was the scene of two high-profile recent altercations has had its alcohol-serving hours cut following a panel hearing.
West Malling Parish Council requested a premises licence review of the Farmhouse in the High Street last month, on the grounds of not complying with its objectives of preventing crime and disorder, promoting public safety and preventing public nuisance.
In recent months, the venue has been at the centre of reports of criminal behaviour which have hit the headlines, including a mass brawl which left staff injured and a scrap involving Miss England candidate Olivia Cooke.
At a licensing panel hearing at Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council’s offices in Kings Hill today, pub bosses were told they could only serve alcohol up to 11.30pm every night and were also ordered to step up security and change its policy on drug use.
It was previously allowed to sell booze up to 12am Monday to Thursday and 12.30am on Fridays and Saturdays.
David Thompson, on behalf of the parish council, had earlier said antisocial behaviour, which he insisted was emanating from the Farmhouse, was doing “untold damage to the reputation of our town”.
Other representations were also heard from Cllr Nick Stapleton, as well as David Mitchem and David North, who each live on the High Street.
Mr Mitchem said the situation was attracting “additional undesirables and compounding the problem”, while Mr North said incidents had brought “fear and deep concern” to those who witnessed them.
However, Ellen Shaw from Kent Police told the hearing the Farmhouse was not found to have breached to meet its licensing conditions following any of the recent incidents.
Referencing the scuffles, the pub’s assistant manager, Molly Boorman, said they were “totally unprovoked” incidents which couldn't be legislated for.
Ms Boorman also told the hearing that a range of policies were enforced at the pub to reduce crime and that she also recently set up a group chat with other pub bosses in the area where they can share information when trouble arises.
The licensing panel, made up of Cllrs Howard Rogers, Pam Bates and Roger Roud retired for nearly two hours before delivering their verdict.
Chairman Cllr Rogers said the panel had found evidence of noise and nuisance to the public and evidence that the activities at the Farmhouse have contributed to crime and disorder.
As well as changing the alcohol-serving hours, the panel also said the outside area should be used for smoking only after 10pm and that there be a minimum of four door staff on duty on Friday and Saturday evenings between May and October, and on New Year's Eve, and a minimum of two on such evenings between November and April.
Cllr Rogers added: "Staff and management of the Farmhouse should review their policy on drugs and illegal substances, specifically with regards to confiscation, seizure and disposal, and recording to police of any such drug discovery.
"We are particularly concerned that drugs are just thrown down the toilet, we don't feel that is a correct policy."
Other options for the panel to consider were to ban an activity from the scope of the licence, removed the designated premises supervisor, suspend the licence for three months or revoke it altogether.
Stephen Thomas, on behalf of the Farmhouse, said after the meeting: "We are happy with the result.
"We offered a number of concessions to residents and we intend to work with them in a positive way."