Popular pub awaits its fate as violent attacks lead to licence review

The Oddfellows Arms in Church Street, Seaham.
The Oddfellows Arms in Church Street, Seaham.

The future of a high street pub closed by police after brawls which left two men seriously hurt is to be decided within days.

The premises licence of the Oddfellows Arms in Church Street, Seaham, was suspended last month after Durham Constabulary requested it was reviewed.

Now a Durham County Council committee is due to hear whether it must remain shut, if it can reopen or trade again with conditions attached, at a meeting to be attended by police and business owner Red Oak Taverns.

The notice put on the Oddfellows Arms.

The notice put on the Oddfellows Arms.

Following its closure, a petition was signed by more than 1,200 people calling for landlady Lizzy Porritt and her 10 staff to keep their jobs.

However, the pub firm has removed her as the designated premises supervisor (DPS), with a letter from its legal firm stating it has “taken immediate steps to terminate the lease of the tenant who was operating the pub as her own business.”

Papers released ahead of the meeting set out concerns about the venue’s CCTV system alongside the details of two incidents which left men with serious injuries, when police say door staff failed to act.

The first incident broke out at 1am on Sunday, August 5, when police say a fight began inside the pub and ended up on the street, but was not saved on CCTV for the required 28 days.

I would like you to re-consider your decision, I’ve got dedicated staff that have been put out of a job as well as myself at no fault of our own.

Lizzy Porritt

A man kicked another in the face, causing bruising to the brain and a fractured skull.

Officers say the footage showed “very little interaction” from the door staff member, who was not badged, and they were standing over the unconscious man for a short time before returning to the bar, with no police or ambulance called.

It was followed by an incident at the around the same time on Saturday, October 20, when police say a man needed surgery to put metal plates in his face after he sustained two fractured eye sockets, a broken nose and two fractured ribs.

Officers say his head was stamped on during an assault by three men, which was witnessed by the DPS, who did not ask the door staff to intervene or call police.

The statement says bar staff had tried to break up the fight, but were also assaulted, with Durham Constabulary informed of the attack by the victim’s wife.

Both incidents are being investigated as grievous bodily harm assaults.

The council has voiced support for the licence review and expressed “extreme concern” about CCTV issues, with its licensing team highlighting a complaint made on Sunday, October 14, when 11 and 12-year-old children spent time in the pub unaccompanied.

Neighbouring businesses have backed Lizzy’s return to the bar, citing her charity work and kindness in a letter, adding: “Lizzy will be a mammoth loss to the community, Church Street and local commerce.”

Lizzy’s letter to the committee details issues with installing a new hard drive to the CCTV system.

She says she was on holiday when the first fight broke out and that a member of her staff was calling police when a customer told her to stop during the second.

Lizzy said: “My only crime was listening to my customer and not phoning the police.

“I have ran the Oddfellows for over 10 years and I have helped the police on various occasions, letting them check the CCTV front and back of the property.

“I would like you to re-consider your decision, I’ve got dedicated staff that have been put out of a job as well as myself at no fault of our own.”

The council’s statutory licensing sub-committee will be held on Tuesday at 10am in the Council Chamber of the council’s offices in Spennymoor.