Cemetery cafe will keep booze licence after highly charged Hartlepool Council meeting

CONCERN: Vera Bradshaw (left), Gloria Williams, Marie Duncan and Edgar Coulson pictured with other residents.
CONCERN: Vera Bradshaw (left), Gloria Williams, Marie Duncan and Edgar Coulson pictured with other residents.

A CAFE in a cemetery will be allowed to keep its controversial alcohol licence after councillors opted against scrapping it.

Instead, a majority of members at last night’s highly charged full council meeting agreed Hartlepool Borough Council would only revoke the licence allowing alcohol to be served at Inspirations Coffee House, in Stranton Cemetery, if the building was ever sold.

Inspirations Coffee House and Garden Centre.

Inspirations Coffee House and Garden Centre.

Last night’s motion was put forward by independent councillors and members of Putting Hartlepool First (PHF), whose leader Keith Dawkins had previously stormed out of a licensing sub-committee meeting where he refused to vote on a licence extension to 9pm because he was so angry.

Proposed by councillor Jonathan Brash, the motion read: “That this council voluntarily gives up its alcohol licence at the inspirations cafe and thereby return Stranton Cemetery to being a place of rest.” Coun Brash said: “We should not be selling alcohol in a cemetery.” Councillor Geoff Lilley, of PHF, added: “We all have a different moral compass but a significant amount of people have been morally offended.”

But Conservative group leader, Ray Martin-Wells, said he hadn’t received any complaints in his role as chair of licensing and accused the motion of being politically motivated ahead of the local elections.

In a feisty chamber, independent councillor Paul Thompson denied it was political, adding “this is about personal respect and dignity”.

Labour members, including council leader Christopher Akers-Belcher and Jim Ainslie praised Inspiration staff but Coun Thompson said the issue was with the booze licence, not the cafe’s staff.

Concerns were raised over whether it could turn into a pub if it were ever sold.

Coun Martin-Wells then put forward an amendment, adding the words “if the council ever agrees to dispose of the property” to the end of the original motion.

It was carried by a majority, meaning Inspirations will be able to sell booze as long as it is under council ownership.

Council officials insist the licence would be used for events such as gardening talks and wine-tasting events but the decision sparked fury among residents who have relatives in the cemetery.

Vera Bradshaw, whose son Brian, 36, is buried there, said: “We are all disgusted. I go there to grieve in peace.”

Resident Gloria Williams said: “It is an appalling decision.”

Coun Brash said licensing meeting minutes showed Coun Dawkins had tried to abstain and argued that should not have been recorded as a vote against, therefore throwing into question the legality of the original decision.

But Peter Devlin, chief solicitor, was adamant the decision was “lawfully binding”.