Police describe drug dealing as pub has drinks licence removed

The Leather Bottle pub has had its license suspended as part of a crackdown on drug related violence in Colchester

The Leather Bottle pub has had its licence revoked - Credit: Google Maps

A pub described by police as the ”heart of a large-scale cocaine business” has had its alcohol licence removed.

Drug dealers unwittingly sold cocaine to undercover police officers who had been deployed at The Leather Bottle in Colchester to disrupt the supply of Class A drugs.

But the landlords of the pub in Shrub End Road have denied that any staff at the venue were involved in illegal activities.

According to an Essex Police report, cocaine was used in plain sight and officers bought drugs from the suspects several times.

The report, submitted to Colchester Borough Council's licensing committee, which today revoked the venue's licence,  said the pub was “arguably the heart of a large-scale cocaine supply business”.

The solicitor representing the licence holders, named as Mr O’Toole of John Fowler Solicitors, at the meeting, objected to the police's summary review application.

He said: “Our clients maintain that natural justice has not been applied in this case, as a peremptory decision was made without any attempts to liaise or engage before the drastic decision was made to suspend the licence with our clients. 

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“Our client is prepared to implement any new conditions that the committee thinks suitable and categorically rejects that any members of staff or the license holders were involved in any illegal activities, such as allowing others to drug deal or commit any acts of violence either on or off the premises.” 

He said his clients - listed as Quirebuild Limited in the report - intended to appeal if the licence was revoked.

According to the police, the "drug dealing was widespread (it took place on each occasion the premises were visited) and conducted in the open”.

Officers also witnessed a fight between eight men using weapons in early July, which escalated into three of the men driving at people in the car park.

Later that month, an undercover officer had a conversation with a man who claimed some men had handguns in the waist bands of their trousers in anticipation of more trouble, the report said.

The licensing committee decided other options, such as modifying the licence conditions or removing the premises supervisor, would have been insufficient to prevent crime and disorder.

Chairing the meeting, councillor Roger Buston said: “The sub-committee considered that the supplementary information that had been provided by Essex Police contained overwhelming evidence suggesting that extremely serious criminal activity had been associated with the premises and the sub-committee took the view that the licence holder had either been aware of these activities that were referenced or should have been aware of them.”