Management of a pub in Reading, which could lose its licence next week after a series of violent incidents and “serious” drug use, have called the police’s request “disproportionate” and asked for conditions to be imposed instead.

The Pheasant, on Southampton Street, will have its licence reviewed by Reading Borough Council (RBC)’s Licensing committee on December 1 and could be asked to close for good, with Thames Valley Police (TVP) recommending the licence be revoked.

A decision on the future of the pub was delayed earlier this month due to late evidence being submitted by its management.

READ MORE: ‘Taking the p**s – Decision on future of The Pheasant pub adjourned

Owned by Admiral Taverns and run by another company – Q Inns – employees at both companies have responded to the police’s report with their own views on the events and what action is needed.

Mick Sheridan, a business development manager at Admiral Taverns, said revocation would be “entirely disproportionate”, leading to job losses and a vacant building, and the pub’s live-in manager has refuted some of the events reported by the police.

READ MORE: Spiked bat, attempted GBH and 20-person brawl – Why The Pheasant could be shut down

Having heard from the police why the pub should be shut down, here we take you through the views of the two managers and their suggested action.

The view from the pub’s live-in manager

Jane Brookes, the designated premises supervisor (DPS) at The Pheasant and live-in manager of the pub, explained her side of things.

Ms Brookes is employed by Q Inns, a pub management company which has an agreement with owners Admiral Taverns to run The Pheasant, and took control on June 19, 2020.

She said she was asked to look after The Pheasant because the DPS at the time had to look after his unwell father and initially “only expected to be there for a week or two”.

However, a few weeks after she joined, there was an incident on March 17.

Knife incident – March 17, 2020: At around 7pm, police received call stating a male was at The Pheasant with a stanley knife, smashing windows and had cut someone across the neck.

Police say the incident, which led to an investigation of an attempted GBH with intent, was not aided by staff at the pub.

Landlady Jane Brookes states the DPS has “gone missing”. Admiral Taverns agreed to close the pub until a new DPS is in place.

Police asked for clarity on who was in charge of the premises and, as the previous supervisor was still unable to return, she took over and moved into the pub.

She said she could see issues immediately, with “younger locals [who] were not all the kind of locals that I wanted as my customers”.

Ms Brookes says she made immediate changes, barring “quite a lot of people in a short space of time” and the younger customers “who seemed to think they could do whatever they liked” stopped visiting.

Things started to improve, according to Ms Brookes, and Q Inns was looking to buy the site from Admiral Taverns until the national Covid lockdown happened in March.

During the lockdown, Q Inns paid to improve the appearance of the pub, with much of the work – including painting, deep cleaning and creating flower beds and baskets – done by Ms Brookes herself.

She said this resulted in a “completely new look” and “had the desired effect” in bringing older locals in, who had not liked some of the younger crowd.

Mr Brookes said the pub still has some younger customers – mostly students – but they are respectful and do not cause trouble.

She said there have been very few incidents since the pub re-opened and responded to the events recorded by the police since the easing of the first lockdown in June.

Social distancing concerns – July 24: Police receive report from a member of public concerned about social distancing measures during a wake.  The caller stated there were approximate 200 persons within the premises. Police were unable to respond and due to no CCTV being available no evidence was available.

Ms Brookes said reports of three funerals taking place at the same time and 200 people being in the pub “simply did not happen” and she does not know what it refers to.

She believes this may have been reported by someone who has an issue with her or the pub because they were barred.

Violent incident – August 28: TVP receive a call at 11.30pm reporting a fight at The Pheasant.

Officers attended and produced a report stating that staff indicated a fight had taken place between two individuals who had since left the pub.

Of specific concern to the officers was a lack of Covid-19 control measures and social distancing and they estimated 100–150 people were in the rear garden of the premises (the capacity is limited to 80 on the licence).

Ms Brookes said there was no fight on August 28.

She said there were words exchanged between two individuals but the pub managed the situation and prevented it escalating into a fight.

Ms Brookes said the garden was busy because police were in attendance and would not allow people to leave.

Licensing concerns – September 9: A licensing inspection on September 9 found the pub had failed to comply with 11 conditions.

Ms Brookes admitted: “I did not have my house in order to the extend that I should have done in terms of record-keeping and due diligence.”

She said her focus had been on adapting Covid restrictions which kept on changing and not enough on meeting licensing conditions but noted the council had reported improvements in a further inspection on October 8.

The view from Admiral Taverns

Mick Sheridan is a business development manager at Admiral Taverns and responsible for ensuring 50 pubs across the UK are responsible for complying with regulations.

He says the company is a “credible and responsible” operator and points to it being crowned “leased and tenanted pub company of the year” at the Publican Awards in 2019.

Mr Sheridan started looking after The Pheasant in February 2019 and was aware it was “a challenging site”.

He says he changed the management company to one he trusted, who appointed Ms Brookes, and said she proved herself to be a “credible and capable operator”.

Mr Sheridan said negotiations for Q Inns to take over the pub permanently are still ongoing but there is no agreement yet due to the uncertainty caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

He said the company showed its intention to take on the site permanently with the works it undertook in the first lockdown, adding “sparkle” to the premises and profits had gone up by 50 per cent.

The application to review the pub’s licence surprised him as he believed Ms Brookes did everything she could have done and reacted appropriately to the “serious” GBH incident in March which he said “could not have been predicted”.

He said there had been very few substantiated incidents since March, when the police asked for new conditions to be to be added to the licence, and said he does not understand why the police now want to revoke the licence.

Mr Sheridan added: “I believe it would be entirely disproportionate to revoke the premises licence.

“Jobs would be lost, and a building would become vacant and unused in a situation where it can already be seen that things are improving.”

Police say, if the licence is not revoked, 36 conditions should be imposed as well as reducing the opening hours until 10.30pm.

But Mr Sheridan said issues been improving recently and some of the police’s recommendations are “so extreme” that they would have the same effect as revocation of the licence.

The pub’s suggested conditions

The pub’s management has come up with a set of conditions it thinks would be appropriate and has urged the committee to impose these conditions rather than revoking the licence.

The conditions include:

CCTV covering entire premises

Staff training

Challenge 25

Logging incidents

All doors and windows to be kept closed

Contact number for residents to complain about nuisance during operating hours

No drinking or eating in beer garden after 11pm

Increasing searching for weapons or drugs

Ensuring max of 80 people in the pub

Ms Brookes said she has introduced many of these conditions and they are working.