Lockdown defying owner of The Porky Pint in Billingham faces new licensing troubles

The premises Credit: Teesside Live

A pub stripped of its licence for breaking lockdown rules is to see its owner face yet another licensing panel.

Paul Henderson's effort to make himself the designated premises supervisor at the Porky Pint, Billingham, has been opposed by Cleveland Police - sparking a Stockton Council hearing next week.

The protestations come after the Mill Lane eatery and bar saw its ability to sell booze taken away for opening in protest at lockdown measures in early 2021.

The Porky Pint served customers in lockdown last January as part of "Great Reopening" protests. It also served visitors during tier restrictions in November 2020.

The Mill Lane bar had announced its intention to open up two days before its lockdown breaching gathering last year - where council officials and police spotted customers having drinks inside. A subsequent licensing hearing was told how Mr Henderson had deliberately broken the law out of his own personal beliefs.

But Stockton Council's licensing sub committee was unimpressed - finding he'd committed "extremely serious" breaches given the thousands of lives lost in the pandemic. An appeal to overturn the decision at Teesside Magistrates' Court failed in March - with Mr Henderson vowing to take his licence fight to the High Court.

Now the 39-year-old is set to face another council licensing panel. In a letter for the committee, police licensing officer Andrew Thorpe said the past review had shown Mr Henderson had "shown a complete disregard for the government's rules" during the pandemic.

Paul Henderson Paul Henderson, owner of The Porky Pint, who is appealing Stockton Council's decision to revoke his licence. Credit: Teesside Live

PC Thorpe stated: "He refused to comply with any of the coronavirus lockdown regulations, which in part had been brought in to save life - and kept the premises open for business."

He also argued he "didn't want to listen" to advice from officers attending the pub when he was "blatantly flouting government rules".

PC Thorpe added: "We ask the committee to refuse this application, as Mr Henderson has repeatedly shown his refusal to abide by the Government's legislation and to adhere to the conditions on the premises licence, which he himself agreed to.

"In Cleveland Police's opinion, the granting of this application will undermine the licensing objectives, as Mr Henderson has repeatedly shown that he does not promote them."

District judge Steven Hood dismissed the Porky Pint's appeal in March - finding the conduct of the pub and Mr Henderson was "serious", and that he had "no intention" of complying with the relevant covid laws and lockdowns.

While he considered he was "well respected" in Billingham - citing the number of letters offered up in his support - Mr Hood found his actions had undermined licensing aims to "prevent crime and disorder" and "promote public safety".

Mr Hood told the court: "Mr Henderson tells me in his witness statement that he is 'a person who can be trusted to work in a responsible, mature and professional way with the licensing authority'.

"His actions during these incidents, his dealings with the local authority throughout this review process and his evidence before me shows that this is not the case."

Mr Henderson has vowed to take his fight to the High Court. The publican was originally the DPS of the Porky Pint before the role was handed over to a full time employee.

When they left, Mr Henderson returned to the role - but Cleveland Police objected to this move in the wake of the covid breaches. Mr Henderson told the Local Democracy Reporting Service they had another member of staff lined up to be the new supervisor - but he found the council's position curious given the court had heard the Porky Pint's licence had been revoked.

The publican believed uncertainty remained over whether it could still serve drinks pending the outcome of the next hearing - with a "spanner in the works" given the High Court appeal had been lodged. Mr Henderson also said the pub had received correspondence and visits from council officers checking they were not serving alcohol.

He added: "We're playing it safe and waiting for whether the Magistrates' Court or High Court confirm the appeal is in the system. I can only assume we're at the mercy of a backlog of administration in the courts.

"We haven't submitted it to the council (yet) as we're still getting their paperwork in order, but we do have somebody ready to be the DPS. The bizarre thing is, according to Stockton Council, there is no licence - so how can there be a DPS? And, therefore, why is there a DPS hearing?"

Barring late negotiations and agreements, the committee hearing is due to take place on Wednesday, May 11.