UPDATED: York couple could lose their pub – for giving away free drinks on Remembrance Sunday

The Grey Horse in Elvington. Photo - David Dunning
12 Nov 2020 @ 6.51 am
| News

What was meant to be a kind gesture on a special day has cost a York couple their home and livelihood.

Nigel Cookson and his partner Jo Cashon run The Grey Horse in Elvington. Villagers say they have transformed the place since taking over.

But they say they fear they have lost their DPS licence – and the pub with it – after an incident this Sunday where they handed out free drinks from their own supplies, and not from the pub.

Somebody complained and the police turned up.

Every venue with an alcohol licence must have a DPS – designated premises supervisor.

In a statement released this afternoon Nigel Cookson and Jo Cashon said:

“Remembrance Sunday is always a significant day in the lives of the people of Elvington.

“It is commemorated by hundreds of people, both at the village memorial adjacent to our pub The Grey Horse, and the Free French Memorial closer to Elvington airfield, which was home to bomber squadrons in World War 2.

“The usual commemoration was understandably cancelled this year, but a lot of villagers went in their small family groups, or individually, to pay their respects while some laid wreaths.

Inside the Grey Horse. Photograph: The Grey Horse on Facebook

“Cubs, scouts and guides stood in uniform on their doorsteps to mark the two-minute silence at 11am.

“One young man played the Last Post on his bugle. It was very moving.

“We felt it would be both appropriate and respectful to make our own gesture, so we put out some drinks on tables outside the pub.

“People going to or returning from the memorials were welcome to stop on the pavement and raise a glass, to the Fallen.”

“Quite a few people did, all socially distanced, exchanging greetings with friends and neighbours before moving on. We never dreamt this might be against either the letter or the spirit of the law – these were drinks we provided, not the pub.”

‘Three police vans’

The Grey Horse in Elvington. Photo – David Dunning

The statement continued: “Some people took their drinks to the smoking shelter at the rear of the building when three vans of police turned up.

“The outcome has been that York Police Licensing is stripping Jo of her DPS (Designated Premises Supervisor) which means Jo will not be allowed to run any public houses in the York area.

“They have decided to make an example of us which, with respect, seems to be completely out of proportion to any unintended offence we might have committed.

Nigel and Jo. Photograph: Facebook

“It has been heartening to see the response of the people of Elvington who have taken us to their heart during this unprecedented and difficult time.

“The entire village has adhered to the lockdown rules, and we’ve worked so hard along with our staff to ensure we complied too, and kept everyone safe, we have had no positive cases of Covid linked to the pub whilst we have been here.

“As huge a blow as this is to both of us, it’s such a shame that the great relationship we’d built so quickly with the people of Elvington is being broken and we thank the 350 plus people who have signed a petition in support of us.

“We sincerely hope that York Police Licensing will reconsider this decision.”

Petition started

A petition has been launched to keep Nigel and Jo as the Grey Horse publicans.

Punch Pubs, which owns the Grey Horse, says it’s supporting the couple but has to follow the advice of the police in this matter.

YorkMix asked North Yorkshire Police for a statement, which it issued this afternoon – here it is in full.

They are saying the investigation is continuing but having issued a fixed penalty under covid regulations they now say that has been cancelled.

A revocation of a premises licence or personal licence would be determined by the licensing sub-committee if any review proceedings were brought before them say police.

‘Like Big Brother’

Villagers lined up to express their dismay on social media and in video interviews with YorkMix.

Danny Lockwood was there on Sunday and said everyone was on the pavement and socially distancing.

He argues that it was perfectly safe and he says there were some tiny tots of whiskey and a few glasses of wine laid out on the benches.

“It was a token gesture, I had my tot said hello and went home”

Jackie, who also spoke to us, added she could see the sense of Covid rules but this made her feel like she was being watched all the time. She described the police action as something out of big brother.

But another told us he thought that what happened was fair enough given that rules are in place.

“I’m so sorry for you both. You are exceptional landlords and it’s been a pleasure spending time in the pub with you,” said Laura Good on Facebook.

“I hope the small-minded individual who chose to report a kind gesture on Remembrance Sunday feels suitably and irrevocably sorry.”

Paul McGoran agreed. “Really sorry to hear this, all for doing something considerate for others on a day when everyone is supposed to unite.

“You both have been great for the village and have worked very hard against the odds to make a go of a pub in unprecedented times.”

Glynis Jeffery agreed: “I’m so very sorry to hear this – you’ve been a breath of fresh air, its unbelievable following what was intended as a positive and community spirited act.”