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The Cricketers in Rainham High Street ditches dancefloor after trouble

By Dean Kilpatrick, local democracy reporter

A pub which “became a nightclub” at weekends has agreed to remove its dancefloor after an incident which saw a man punched unconscious and a woman struck by a bottle of Prosecco.

Greene King, which operates the Cricketers in Rainham High Street, brought forward proposed changes to the licence following a series of incidents which culminated in last month’s melee.

The Cricketers pub, Rainham. Picture: Google Streetview (3716111)
The Cricketers pub, Rainham. Picture: Google Streetview (3716111)

These include ditching the makeshift dancefloor, having four door staff when the pub is open post-11pm, and hosting only 10 pre-booked events – such as festive and charity evenings – every year.

Alcohol will still be served until 1am on Fridays and Saturdays, with the pub closing at 1.30am – something which the chain said was crucial for the business to be viable in the future.

Medway Council’s licensing hearing panel agreed the new conditions this morning, and they should come into effect “by the end of the week” once a confirmation letter has been sent out.

PC Chris Hill, licensing officer at Kent Police, said: “The large majority of that pub wasn’t being operated in a manner that I would describe as a pub.

“The very rear of the premises had chairs moved to the side, a dancefloor was created, and there was a DJ booth and dancing. To all intents and purposes, in my view, it became a nightclub.

“It is that element – the high-energy venue – that was a concern for Kent Police. We are finding we were having disorder then, when we weren’t during the week when it was operating as a pub.

“Greene King has come up with a plan that removes the disco/nightclub element. If that isn’t there and goes back to being a pub, our concerns are mitigated somewhat.”

Kent Police said there was an “uncomfortable” atmosphere brewing at the pub over the months, with 10 “violent incidents” reported to the force so far this year.

On July 21, a group of men assaulted “at least three separate people”, including a woman who suffered a large cut to the crown of her head when she was hit by a tossed glass bottle of Prosecco.

PC Hill described the incident as: “It’s not pleasant, it’s not nice, but you’ve probably seen worse.”

In the hope of attracting a different clientele, live music will still be performed as such acts “tend not to be what the kids want to see any more”. Meals will also be served later into the night at weekends.

Interim steps, which stopped the pub from trading after 11pm on Fridays and Saturdays, saw alcohol sales between 7pm and 1am fall by 70%.

Customers dining at the pub also complained about having to drink wine out of plastic cups.

Andrea Greenwood, Greene King’s operations manager, said the Cricketers was in “huge decline and struggling,” adding: “We’ve had to reduce our staff numbers”.

Head office has vowed to “keep an eye” on any progress made once the conditions come into effect.

“It’s not pleasant, it’s not nice, but you’ve probably seen worse” - PC Chris Hill, licensing officer at Kent Police

Piers Warne, a solicitor representing the firm, said: “We could have come back between then and now (since the first panel meeting), and asked for interim steps to be modified.

“We chose not to take that option because we took the concerns seriously, and wanted to take the proper time to assess rather than racing back to try and change things.

“One is now in the hands of fate, to a degree, in terms of where customers have found themselves going and whether they come back, but we are prepared to change the nature of the business to deal with the concerns.”

Independent adviser Adrian Stud suggested to the panel that reducing opening hours could just move the problem, rather than addressing it.

Cllr Diane Chambers (Con), panel chairman, concluded: “The decision the panel took in July has led them to have a very significant look at the operation of the premises.

“To be fair to them, they have reacted to the concerns expressed by the panel at that time, and it is their intention to reset the operation.”

Greene King also confirmed it is still looking for a long-term designated premises supervisor, having made an interim appointment to satisfy previous worries.

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