Pub licence revoked after undercover officers sold drugs during Euro 2020

A Colchester pub has had its alcohol licence stripped after six people were arrested for drug offences 

A Colchester pub has had its alcohol licence stripped after six people were arrested for drug offences - Credit: Google Maps

A Colchester pub has had its alcohol license revoked for three months after undercover police were sold cocaine during Euro 2020.

The decision was made to strip the license at Royal Mortar, in Military Road, by Colchester Borough Council’s Licensing Sub-Committee on Monday. 

The meeting heard undercover officers witnessed cocaine use at the pub, particularly during England matches when it was very busy, and were even sold drugs themselves.

The committee said the period would give the landlords time to implement measures to help prevent further illegal activity.

According to a barrister representing Paul and Tanya Bugg, who have been licence holders in Colchester for almost 20 years, the pub was short-staffed due to the coronavirus pandemic, relying on volunteers to clear glasses.

Councillors said they were concerned by the seriousness of the alleged offences, but were reassured by evidence presented at the meeting that the licence holders were not directly involved themselves, despite initial suggestions by the undercover officers.

The officers claimed in their witness statements they were told by drug dealers the landlord, Mr Bugg, “doesn’t mind” if people took cocaine at the pub, as long as they were discreet.

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But barrister Daniel Taylor told councillors Essex Police were relying “somewhat perversely” on the testimonies of drug dealers.

He said: “It goes without saying that Mr and Mrs Bugg, as reputable and respected license holders, were not aware that drugs were being dealt with on their premises, but were not so naive as to consider that drug taking did not ever take place at the pub.”

However, representatives from the police nonetheless argued for a full revocation of the licence at The Royal Mortar.

Councillors also heard there had been no communication between management and Essex Police before or during the investigation.

Mr Bugg said at the meeting they had received no correspondence from Essex Police before the licence was temporarily suspended on December 14, following the investigation.

This is despite the police previously claiming to be working with venues ahead of the Euros.

Essex Police licensing officer Ronan McManus told councillors contacting the management might have thwarted their operation.

He said: “Had we have seen a list of calls from the licensee, even via the licensing officer, or even via the local community policing team, where they were raising their concerns about criminality and drug use at the premises, we would probably have looked at that, right this is somebody we can work with.

“Because there was absolutely nothing, we had to take it on the highest threshold, that potentially these premises could be involved in the supply of drugs.” 

Mr Bugg said staff had struggled with the increase in customers when the pub reopened after the gradual lifting of Covid restrictions and during the Euros, but had barred several people from the pub for suspected drug dealing.

He said at the meeting: “I absolutely hate drugs. As a landlord, I don’t even drink.

“I’m one of these landlords that just will not put up with drug taking and if I catch it, I deal with it.”

This comes less than a week after The Leather Bottle, Shrub End Road, had its license revoked by Colchester Borough Council after drug dealers unwittingly sold cocaine to undercover police officers.

Police described The Leather Bottle as “arguably the heart of a large-scale cocaine supply business” at a licensing meeting on January 5.

The committee will reconvene later this year.

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