Covid breach pub aims to call Chris Witty and Matt Hancock as witnesses in appeal battle

A three-day hearing will see a pub stripped of its licence for opening during a lockdown attempt to overturn the decision.

By Alex Metcalfe
Sunday, 12th December 2021, 3:00 pm
Landlord Paul Henderson.
Landlord Paul Henderson.

The Porky Pint, in Billingham, saw its alcohol licence taken away by Stockton Council after breaking the rules and opening during last January’s lockdown.

An administrative hearing has set the ground for a three-day appeal at Teesside Magistrates’ Court, in Middlesbrough, with a start date booked in for March 15.

It is understood pub owner Paul Henderson has listed chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty and former health secretary Matt Hancock on a roster of witnesses he would like for the proceedings.

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The Porky Pint, in Billingham

The long-running saga saw the eatery open its doors in January as part of Great Reopening protests against covid measures.

A third national lockdown was announced on January 4 in the face of rising demand on the country’s hospitals.

The Porky Pint told the authorities it intended to open.

And their move sparked visits from police and council licensing teams.

Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Witty.

The authority’s statutory licensing sub committee eventually revoked the Mill Lane pub’s licence over the breaches.

A statement prepared by Mr Henderson added: “I made a political statement and sought to draw public attention to the devastation these laws have caused not just to small independent businesses, and particularly the hospitality sector, but to society at large.”

But barrister James Kemp, for Cleveland Police and the council, said it was not for people and licence holders to “pick and choose which bits they like and which bits they don’t” from the rules.

“The law is there, whatever you may think, for a reason,” added Mr Kemp.

“It is there to control society – and in this case, in a pandemic, the control understandably had to be tightened.

“Why? – because you may die. It’s as simple as that.”

The committee’s final verdict found Mr Henderson’s actions and behaviours were “extremely serious” – and that he’d “not given any thought to the community” in doing what he did.

Meanwhile, a fundraising effort on CrowdJustice – called Save Our Bacon – has raised almost £8,000 for the pub’s legal case so far.