Old Red Lion pub in Leeds loses licence as police ‘convinced someone could be killed’ after ‘shocking’ violence

Councillors stripped a Leeds pub of its alcohol licence after a spate of violent incidents linked to the pub left one constable “convinced” someone may be killed if the venue wasn’t closed.

PC Clifford claimed some customers at The Old Red Lion in York Road “appear to have a propensity to carry knives” and “the means and willingness to use them in open view of members of the public”, in a report laid before Leeds City Council‘s licensing sub-committee this afternoon.

West Yorkshire Police applied to strip the pub of its licence after three violent attacks linked to the pub occurred in June and July, including two stabbings outside and one person hit by a car.

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Owners Ian Gibson and Jacqui Lightfoot insisted none of the people involved in the incidents were locals and that they had taken measures to tackle the violence, including removing the rear beer garden and fencing off the rear of the building.

But the committee voted unanimously to revoke the pub’s alcohol and events licence on the grounds of preventing crime – after an hour-and-a-half of private discussion.

“Without revocation I’m convinced we will be sat here in the future discussing a fatality,” PC Clifford had told the committee.

The hearing was told of three violent incidents outside the pub in June and July, which the constable described as “shocking”.

On June 13 beer garden punters “stood and watched” as one man was stabbed across the road from the Old Red Lion after three men entered the pub “seemingly looking for each other,” PC Clifford wrote in the report. The crime remains under investigation.

Bob Thompson, a pub consultant representing the landlords, claimed “nothing could have been done” about the incident because it was not on the pub grounds.

Then on July 10 a customer sat in the beer garden was threatened to two men holding machetes, the police report claimed. Mr Thompson argued only one of the men was holding a machete.

Finally on July 11 one man was hit by a car outside the pub after an argument at a pool table, while another was kicked, punched and stabbed outside, according to PC Clifford’s report. An investigation is ongoing into both incidents.

Mr Thompson told the panel the attacks involved a group of people unknown to the pub’s landlords, arguing: “This could’ve happened at any venue in Leeds”.

One resident, who spoke anonymously at the meeting, claimed a stabbing victim “covered in blood” had fled the pub car park and jumped into the garden of her home, where she lives with her elderly parents.

The July 11 incident took place on the day the pub showed the England v Italy Euro 2020 final – despite the landlords telling the police that they weren’t showing England matches, PC Clifford told the panel.

Co-owner Ms Lightfoot insisted she had “never seen” the group involved before but said she wasn’t aware there had been a stabbing until “a week or so after”.

“I was very surprised because I wasn’t aware. I think it’s absolutely dreadful, I don’t agree with anything like this,” she said.

“I do hold my hands up.”

PC Clifford and council licensing officer Carmel Brennand said the owners had spoken with them many times and previously suggested only serving people over 25 years old or changing the pub into a members-only club to tackle violence. Ms Lightfoot also chaired the local Pubwatch group.

Ms Brennand said the Old Red Lion had become “cleaner, fresher and more welcoming” since the owners took over in 2017 and said they had put their hearts, souls and money into the pub.

But the officer said she didn’t have confidence in the owners to prevent violence, while PC Clifford claimed they had not taken responsibility after the spate of attacks and “have lost the ability to keep this pub safe”.

Licence holder Ms Lightfoot responded: “I take responsibility for being naïve but I’ve grown and developed. I don’t take responsibility for any of the incidents that happened.”

Co-owner Mr Gibson said the rear beer garden had been removed and fenced off to tackle violence. He also proposed installing a gate at the front entrance and closing the car park at 6pm.

But councillors decided to revoke the pub’s licence entirely, meaning it is now unable to serve drinks or host entertainment.

The decision was made despite 34 residents writing to the council urging it not to take the licence away, compared to three writing in support of the police’s application.

“Jackie and Ian have done an amazing job turning the establishment around, and it is in my view that the problems that are arising are a result of the overall state of the surrounding area,” one letter in support of the pub read.

Others claimed the pub “is a very significant part to this community” and a place where “everyone chats to everyone and everyone knows everyone”.

The Old Red Lion’s licence was revoked on an interim basis on July 16 after West Yorkshire Police applied for a hearing at Leeds City Council. The owners have the right to appeal the council’s ruling.

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