“We don’t even know if we should put up our Christmas tree because we could be out of here soon.”
The words of the couple who run the Grey Horse in Elvington – because they still fear losing the pub, even though police withdrew a fixed penalty notice issued after an incident on Remembrance Sunday.
As we reported earlier this month, Nigel Cookson and his partner Jo Cashon offered free drinks to people passing by the popular village pub on their way back from the the 11am silence.
Police were called and under Covid restriction rules they issued a fine. That was then withdrawn but North Yorkshire Police didn’t explain why.
Jo was told it was because officers should have given it to her, as she’s the designated premises supervisor (DPS) – the person who has day-to-day responsibility for the running of the business and alcohol sales.
Instead, in the confusion of the initial visit, Nigel accepted it. The withdrawal of the penalty is far from the end of the matter though.
What the police said
This is what police said on 12 November: “There was a report of a gathering in the beer garden and smoking area of a licensed premises with people consuming alcohol from wine and beer glasses.
“The attending officers established that the group were from different households, they were not socially distanced and none of them were wearing face masks or face coverings to mitigate the risk of infection from coronavirus.
“Those present left the licensed premises without any further action being taken after the officers engaged with them, explained the current restrictions and encouraged them to leave.
“However, due to the circumstances of the incident, a person in control of the premises was issued with a Penalty Notice for Covid-19 for breaching the regulations.”
That press release was issused at 2.38pm on the 12 November, and updated at 5.15pm with the words: “This has now been cancelled.”
Too harsh a punishment
Nigel and Jo say they simply left glasses and some of their own wine and whisky out on benches outside the pub as a gesture to the villagers who may want to toast the memory of those who died.
She says that officials visited them again and told her that they still wanted to remove her DPS licence which would make it impossible for them to carry on running the pub.
For now Punch Brewery, which owns the Grey Horse, is being supportive. But without a proper DPS their hands would be tied.
Jo says that if she loses the DPS she loses the pub and will have to leave York. She was also told she would get a penalty notice instead of her partner.
Jo and Nigel accept that it was a mistake to hand out free alcohol – even if it was theirs and not pub stock – but say losing their home and jobs is a disproportionate punishment.
“We don’t know whether we’re still going to be living here, we don’t know if we’ve still got jobs here – so it’s having a massive effect on the family at the moment,” Nigel said.
There is a lot of support for the couple and a petition to keep them in the pub has more than 1,000 signatures. Although some villagers think the rules have been broken and there must be some action.
“You would like to think that they are going to overturn it because we have a lot of support but we don’t know,” said Jo.
Although not confirmed at this stage the matter could have to go to the Licensing & Regulatory Sub Committee. We will update you when we know more.