A PUB boss has received a wave of support ahead of a licensing review called after police said it was open and serving customers during last winter’s lockdown.

Police went to the Unity Brook Inn, in Manchester Road, Kearsley on November 6, 2020, after reports to the council from concerned members of the public saying that people were being permitted to drink there.

Licensed premises were then forbidden from opening under virus restrictions.

A police report stated officers found ‘the premises were open and carrying on the business of a public house’.

Later a £1,000 fixed penalty notice was issued by Bolton Council to licensee Melanie Kirby, for breaching restrictions. An appeal against the penalty was not upheld and the fine remains unpaid and is the subject of judicial proceedings.

A council panel will review the pub's licence at a meeting next Wednesday and a petition and letters of support have been lodged with the council supporting staff.

Pub manager George Kirby said: “On the night of November 6, two police officers attended and said they had complaints that people were being allowed to drink on the premises. Although I was aware of my rights and knew there were no powers of entry I welcomed them into the premises.”

Mr Kirby said three other men were present. One was his employer, who was there to pay him wages from a job he had taken on while the pub was closed.

He said the other men were someone who had delivered a car to Mr Kirby and a third who was picking up an MOT certificate from that man, creating a paper trail to show all three had legitimate reason for being in the pub.

Mr Kirby, added: “The body-worn camera footage from the attending officers will show that I was in my work uniform. It will also show my till was open and empty behind the bar. Therefore showing no beverages were sold.”

A petition with more than 40 names supporting the pub has also been submitted from Kearsley Mount Methodist Church, highlighting the venue's support for Kearsley Scarecrow Festival, Kearsley In Bloom and Kearsley Christmas Tree festival.

Their letter states: “We would like to give an account of the value of the Unity Brook Inn to the Kearsley community.

“The Kearsley Festival group organise the Kearsley Scarecrow Festival, Kearsley In Bloom and Kearsley Christmas Tree festival.

“The money brought in has bought nine defibrillators and eight community benches.

“The Unity Brook Inn has been the main support over the seven years the group has been in existence.”

Ward councillor Paul Heslop added: "I have personally visited the pub since reopening and the compliance with the rules was absolutely faultless.”

He said that he had not been approached by the pub but by many concerned Kearsley residents.

He said: “Many residents have spoken to me about their disappointment if they were to lose the pub.

“The Unity Brook is a bedrock of the festivals in Kearsley."