Published: 06:00, 03 March 2021
| Updated: 09:18, 03 March 2021
The man behind a bid to take over a beleaguered micropub aims to take a no-nonsense approach towards customer management, a licensing hearing had heard.
The previous owners of the Hop and Rye in Wainscott, near Strood, lost their licence after Medway Council discovered one of the previous co-owners was ignoring Covid-19 restrictions by letting people have lock-ins.
As a result, the council revoked the micropub's premises licence.
Prospective licensee Robert Strudwick - who runs the Kings Arms in Upnor - told a meeting of Medway Council's Licensing Hearing Panel yesterday he wants to create a "family friendly environment", which would include removing the offer of discounted drinks.
He said he believed the availability of these drinks created problems at the pub and attracted a crowd who were "no longer welcome".
He said: "The expression was used that it had become the 'Weatherspoon of Wainscott'.
"I very much want to get away from that image by promoting real ales, international craft beers and the like."
Licensing officers found six people drinking at the back of the premises during a visit on Friday, November 27 last year.
Following further inquiries, the pub was found to have held at least five lock-ins since Thursday, November 5.
Residents living by the premises opposed the award of a fresh licence, raising concerns about the level of noise coming from the pub's garden and managing parking.
One resident asked Mr Strudwick how customers who may have caused issues in the past would be discouraged from returning.
He replied: "I can tell you one of the previous owners is already barred. The other, being as good as gold, is most welcome"
Referring to the old customer base, he said: "There won't be anything there for them; they want cheap lager, a pool table, the little den out the back.
"They're gone and they know they're gone."
Mr Strudwick said he hopes to be able to open the micropub in time for Monday, April 12, when pubs and restaurants can open for outdoor service under government guidelines.
Members of the panel adjourned and are expected to publish their decision within 10 working days.
People were allowed to drink in the premises on five separate occasions last November while the country was in the second national lockdown.
'The expression was used that it had become the 'Weatherspoon of Wainscott'...'
Ian Wilson, co-owner, had invited five of his friends to the pub on each occasion while his business partner Mark Greenfield was out of the country.
At the time Mr Greenfield said: "My wife and I left the country on October 9 to spend time with my father in France who was currently undergoing radiotherapy, and we returned on the November 28.
"We were informed of what had happened on that date after just getting off the boat in Portsmouth by PC Dan Hunt and PC Chris Hill. Of which I was shocked and appalled.
"What he did was wrong. I can't say it wasn't, but you've got to put it in perspective. For the police to take it as far as they did is ridiculous really.
"The council claimed the pub hosting five people at a time could have contributed to the number of Covid cases in Medway, or even possibly fatalities in Medway. I think it was just a bit over the top.
"They absolutely blew it out of proportion and I am appealing against the decision.
"It wasn't a free for all, the pub wasn't open to everyone, it was six people, who all live alone.
"It's a farce. We've been made scapegoats."
Mr Greenfield has been approached for further comment.