A Rossendale club has had its premises licence suspended for 30 days and been told to make improvements, after police found after-hours ‘lock-ins’ and received allegations of anti-social behaviour, drug-use and under-age drinking.

The suspension was imposed on Haslingden Trades Club by councillors after its current premises licence holder, Lee Barrett, accepted errors were made last year.

He and others took over the Regent Street venue following the death of previous licensee John Gallagher.

Mr Barrett now owns the club as a business. It retains the ‘trades club’ name but does not have a traditional committee management.

He said staff have made recent improvements but he believes the venue has been ‘victimised’ by rival pubs through ‘lies’ and ‘vague allegations’.

He also said Haslingden is a ‘difficult’ town. Issues include ‘smack-head’ drug users, including women, stealing goods from shops, including the M&S store at Rawtenstall, then trying to sell them in pubs, he claimed.

Haslingden Trades Club was told to improve its management, staff training and age-checks at the licence review by Rossendale Council. The review was requested by Lancashire Police but was not a criminal case.

The club can appeal the decision within 28 days.

Mr Barrett is the club’s premises licence-holder and Christopher Butterworth is the designated premises supervisor, who was not at the licensing review.

Sgt Stephen Dundon, of Lancashire Police, described complaints, allegations and police late-night visits, from last summer to late December. 

In September,  information was given to the police over alleged plans for under-age drinking and a party. An informant alleged it was the ‘word’ in a local high school that regular under-age drinking happened at the club. In October, drugs were found there. 

On other dates, police found people drinking inside after 11pm or customers outside looking for an after-hours ‘lock-in’.

Nearby, some local residents, including in a care home, had complained about noise, litter from club customers, attempts to tamper with residents’ cars and ‘smack-heads’ visiting the area. Council environmental health officers had also received noise complaints.

Speaking at the review, Sgt Dundon added: “Management seem to have little or no understanding about responsibilities. They have been given informal advice and enforcement action but we are still getting complaints."

He added: "It should be remembered that it’s a privilege to have a licence and the responsibilities that go with it. It’s not a given.”

Labour Coun Patrick Marriott, the licensing committee chairman, asked if revoking the club’s premises licence would be a proportionate option? Sgt Dundon said it would be.

Mr Barrett, the premises licence holder, attended the meeting and spoke.

He said: “We have already been tried about incidents going back to July. We admitted at the time we made errors of judgement and closing times, accepted our punishment and vowed it would not happen again.”

On the club allegedly having a reputation for under-age drinking at a local high school, Mr Barrett said: “Why would they [youngsters] want to go to the trades club when it’s full of old men? There’s no appeal for that. I am also a UEFA [football] coach where child welfare is central. There’s no way I would allow under-age drinking. It’s a myth. Rubbish.”

Mr Barrett’s football coaching activity included four years at Bacup Borough FC, he said later.

Speaking about Haslingden generally, he said he could not be held responsible for every problem.

He said: “Haslingden is difficult. There’s a lot of hooliganism in the town centre at times. Noise and drunkenness. Other pubs have problems but they don’t seem to make the news."

He said the club had four CCTV cameras and more could be added.

The new full licensing conditions will be published by Rossendale Council, stating what is required when it reopens after the suspension.

Speaking after, Mr Barrett said: “Anti-social behaviour is normal for some youngsters. Haslingden is a difficult town centre. It’s not easy for publicans.

“Rawtenstall has more venues and is typically more expensive with different clients. But it has its problems too with younger customers. There’s an awful lot of drug use.”