Bar shuts as smoking rebel loses court fight

REBEL landlord Hamish Howitt today vowed to continue his fight against the smoking ban - despite a High Court judge ordering him to shut his Blackpool pub.

While Mr Howitt - who has flouted the ban by allowing customers to smoke on his premises - said he would abide by yesterday's ruling, he pledged to use the courts to take his battle to even higher jurisdictions.

He said: "I don't want any more confrontation, but I will continue to pursue this through the courts."

Mr Howitt, 57, ordered workers at his Delboy's Bar on Rigby Road to shut the premises immediately after Judge Denyer, sitting at London's High Court, told him he had lost his licence.

Hamish will be joining us for a live web chat on Thursday between 1pm-2pm only on www.blackpoolgazette.co.uk

After the hearing he said: "I will abide by the decision reluctantly, but I am going to pursue this through the House of Lords and via a judicial review on human rights.

"I'm gutted that I lost and I think it's absurd that smoking is considered part of crime and disorder. Immediately that I got the result I had to phone the bar and tell them to shut it down.

"It has cost me 28,000 in costs and fines, not to mention the damage to my health. So today, of course I'm gutted.

"I'm hoping to re-apply for a licence and will give the council an undertaking that I will never allow smoking on the premises, but in the meantime I will take this through the court of human rights."

Judge Denyer said Mr Howitt was obliged by health and licensing laws to treat smoking in his bar as a crime and prevent it.

The 2003 Licensing Act states that one of the objectives of the licensing regime is "the prevention of crime and disorder".

Blackpool Council decided to revoke Mr Howitt's Premises Licence because of his failure to prevent the "crime" of smoking.

The bar owner argued that, for there to be a breach of his licence, there had to be "disorder", as well as crime.

He argued: "There is no disorder in smoking. I would say my bar is the most controlled bar in Blackpool, and probably the UK."

But Deputy High Court Judge Denyer rejected his argument, saying: "Although not a crime of disorder, permitting smoking in a place where smoking is barred is a criminal offence - and therefore simply as a matter of definition it is a crime."

Blackpool Council leader Coun Peter Callow, said the council had been carrying out its duty to uphold government legislation by appealing against a decision by a district judge sitting at Blackpool Magistrates Court earlier this year, who had ruled that the council had been wrong to revoke Mr Howitt's licence.

Coun Callow said: "Upholding this piece of legislation has been very costly to Blackpool Council, both in terms of legal fees and officer time. I'm glad we can finally draw a line under it.

"We don't have a personal grudge against Mr Howitt. We have merely been enforcing the legislation given to us by Government.

"In Blackpool we take a hard stance against licensees who aren't meeting the licensing objectives. We want Blackpool to be a place where people can enjoy themselves in a safe environment ."