Pub owner who opened during lockdown told police ‘drinkers are in my social bubble’

Drinkers posted snaps from inside The Grosvenor House Hotel on Facebook (Image: Lincolnshire Police / SWNS)

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A hotel has lost its alcohol licence after customers posted pictures of themselves enjoying an illegal lockdown booze-up.

The group posted snaps on Facebook showing men slumped in chairs surrounded by empty pint glasses under the caption: "What lockdown?" followed by laughing emojis.

Police then raided The Grosvenor House Hotel, in North Parade, Skegness, Lincs., and seized CCTV which showed owner Russell Sparks behind the bar.

He was seen serving booze to customers on November 13 and 14 – almost two weeks into the second lockdown which closed all pubs, reports LincolnshireLive.

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Photos and CCTV footage led to the boozer being stripped of its licence
(Image: Lincolnshire Police / SWNS)

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Initially, the owner tried telling officers that the people seen drinking were in his social bubble.

As well as 15 men packed into the bar area of the three-star hotel, footage also showed some of the group smoking inside.

Smoking in bars has been illegal since 2007.

Children were also seen eating food at a table behind a group of three smokers, police said.

The boozer opened on two separate days during the November lockdown
(Image: Lincolnshire Police / SWNS)

The second lockdown, which came into force at midnight on November 4, ordered all restaurants, bars and pubs to close except for takeaways.

The Alcohol Licensing Team from Lincolnshire Police have now successfully applied for the hotel to lose its alcohol licence.

Police initially received a photograph from a Facebook account showing a group of men drinking pints and posing for photos.

A Facebook post with the caption "What lock down" alerted police to the breach
(Image: Lincolnshire Police / SWNS)

Sergeant Kim Enderby, Alcohol Licensing Manager for Lincolnshire Police, said said a review of the venue's CCTV was carried out after the Facebook post appeared.

"I thought after 29 years in the police there wasn’t a lot left to shock me but the way in which this venue was operating was awful," she said.

The officer went on to say, as well as the drinking, "of equal concern was the total lack of social distancing measures in place", with footage showing 10 men crammed around a small table.

The Grosvenor House Hotel was stripped of its licence this week
(Image: Google Streetview)

"There were no face masks being worn by customers or staff, nothing had been put in place to try and prevent the spread of the virus."

Sgt Enderby said Mr Sparks claimed the incidents were simply "an error of judgement on his part", which she described as a "poor excuse".

She added the "blatant disregard for both the closure order and social distancing measures" only demonstrated "a lack of management and control".

"We will not hesitate to take action against any licensed premises whose operation presents a risk to the public, where there is criminality and where the licensing objectives are undermined."

The ban was agreed following a digital hearing of Skegness District Council Licensing Sub-Committee on Tuesday.

Mr Sparks has 21 days to appeal the decision.