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Pub faces decision on future after reports of children drinking, using drugs, and carrying knives

10 Dec 2023 6 minute read
Sonny’s Bar on Towyn Road. Photo via Google

Richard Evans, local democracy reporter

The fate of a pub facing closure, after reports of children drinking, using class-A drugs, and carrying knives, will be decided next week.

A licensing committee has five days to decide if it will revoke the licence of a Towyn pub and nightclub.

The licence review of Sonny’s Bar (also known as Sunny’s) and Bentley’s nightclub on Towyn Road follows an application by North Wales Police after a drink- and drug-fuelled under-18s disco.

North Wales Police applied to the council for the licence review on the grounds of a lack of management at the premises, and at a hearing on Friday accused the company who run the establishment of shifting the blame onto its now-fired club manager.

Operating on the first floor, Bentley’s opened in April this year, but police say there has been as many as 16 incidents involving drunkenness, fights, the threat of weapons, and theft.


Police stepped in when an underage disco on September 22 led to members of the public having to help children as young as 13 lying drunk and unconscious on the pavement outside the pub.

Three children were treated at the scene by ambulance staff, two of whom were taken to hospital to recover.

Police also suspected the use of ketamine and cocaine at the party.

At a licensing sub-committee hearing, the business owner of EJP Entertainment, which runs the pub and nightclub, Emma Priestley, a mum of four, insisted she was let down by a former senior member of staff.

CCTV footage of children being treated outside the pub was deemed too “distressing” to be shown publicly, and the committee viewed the video behind closed doors.

According to Miss Priestley and EJP Entertainment’s solicitor Mr Harvey, the former manager John Dunne had arranged a secret, poorly supervised 15th birthday party at the first-floor nightclub for his goddaughter on 22 September, without informing the company.


Speaking at the hearing, Miss Priestley said she was distressed after reviewing the CCTV footage of children being treated at the scene.

“As a mother myself, obviously it was very disturbing to see the CCTV,” she said.

“The protection of children is extremely high on my priorities. I did not know at all about the event.

“I was actually in hospital with my child at the time.

“If I had known, would it have taken place? Absolutely not. I have a 14-year-old child, and as a mother, I would do anything to protect my children. I would do anything to protect any children in that circumstance.

“It is not how we run our operations, and obviously I trusted the people to run these operations, and I have been very let down by certain people.”

She added: “Obviously going forward I put myself down as the designated premises supervisor because I believe I can do that role effectively and efficiently.

“As a mum, it’s very important to me.

“There was no financial gain to what happened (at the event).

“I would have never allowed anything (the event) to happen, and I do believe that John (John Dunne, former nightclub manager) knew that and took actions behind my back in regards to having this event.

“Watching the CCTV, it is apparent to me, (the children) using the staff entrance door, not using the alarmed doors, out of view – I do believe John tried to hide this event from me.

“None of this would have happened had I been involved to begin with. I can’t apologise enough. Nothing like this would ever happen again.”


Representing EJP Entertainment, solicitor Mr Harvey proposed that the licensing committee avoided the “nuclear option” and instead allowed the business to close for three months to retrain staff.

Mr Harvey also said the company had a history of holding safe events at Llandudno’s Broadway Boulevard and 147 and advised that EJP Entertainment could reopen Bentley’s under a separate licence from Sonny’s bar.

He added: “It is most regrettable and upsetting that members of staff have showed such woeful disregard to the safeguarding of the youngsters who were present at the scene, and there’s a consequence of what has happened.”

Mr Harvey then said Tania Kendrick had been removed as the designated premises supervisor and suspended and said John Dunne’s contract had been terminated.

“Emma Priestley has gone on as designated premises supervisor,” he said.

“She has the most to lose if this premises is not properly run. John Dunne was fired, as was entirely right. To call it gross misconduct would be putting it very kindly.”


But North Wales Police’s licensing officer Aaron Haggas claimed the company weren’t taking collective responsibility by attributing the blame to one or two members of staff.

“It is the belief of North Wales Police that the members of staff are a representation of EJP Entertainment Ltd, and it is not simply a case of one bad member of staff,” he said.

“That person is appointed, trained, given appropriate authority and supervision to run the premises, so to basically turn around and say it was one member of staff’s fault is very poor.

“Reviewing CCTV, it could be seen that children are entering at the rear of the premises through a dimly-lit, not very safe stairwell to go into the premises itself.

“They do not arrive with parents or legal guardians. They’re not challenged. They are simply going in and out as they please.

“The three children that were treated by the paramedics can be seen entering the premises. They are stumbling about.

“They are stumbling as they come in. And there is a clear indication that there is a concern that those children should be dealt with, and their safety taken into full consideration; however, as it has progressed, they are simply asked to leave. They leave the premises.”

He added: “At one point, a member of the public assists the children as they lie outside on the bench.

“Further on, when the police arrive, a child can be seen to be lying face down on the floor outside the front of the premises. It is bad enough that the party has gone ahead. The biggest concern is the response from the premises.”

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