Police have cracked down on a “culture” of early morning drinking at pubs in Coleraine, a court has heard.
An undercover officer gained entry by knocking on the back door of the Forge Bar in the town’s New Market Street at 8.40am on Friday June 2 last year and was then served alcohol, it has emerged.
The next month police forced their way into the same premises at 10.30am on Sunday July 23 and found 15 people present.
On that occasion, a defence solicitor said, the punters were there to watch The British Open golf tournament on TV.
The couple who run the bar appeared at Coleraine Magistrates Court on Monday.
Eleanor Boyd (45), was described in court as the licensee and she was alongside her husband Darren Boyd (45), both from Windyhill Road, Macosquin.
Eleanor Boyd has pleaded guilty to permitting the consumption of intoxicating liquor in licensed premises other than during the permitted hours, on July 23.
A similar charge relating to June 2 was withdrawn after she accepted a caution for that matter.
Darren Boyd admitted two charges of selling intoxicating liquor outside permitted hours on the dates in question.
A prosecutor said at 8.40am on June 2 a police officer went to the rear of the bar and was admitted to the pub by Darren Boyd. Two other people were in the bar when Boyd served the officer Tennents.
The prosecutor said police returned to the bar on July 23 with a warrant and after finding the front and rear doors locked forced their way in and found ten to 15 people on the premises at 10.35am.
There were pint glasses on the bar which smelt of alcohol and draft beer equipment was lit up and police were told by Darren Boyd: “There was nothing really sold, people are just in to watch the golf”.
Defence solicitor Brendan McLernon said Eleanor Boyd had been the licensee for almost nine years and has no previous convictions.
He added: “There was, at that time, a culture in Coleraine of early morning drinking not just at these premises but at a number of premises.
“During the summer time police made a determined effort to crackdown on that, particularly on Sunday morning drinking which was prevalent in the area.”
Mr McLernon said as a result of the prosecution “the word has gone out” that such actions will not be tolerated in Coleraine.
The defence lawyer said his clients had committed no further breaches of the licensing laws and they had learned a lesson and realised their livelihoods were at risk.
District Judge Liam McNally said it was an aggravating factor that there were two sets of offences.
Mr McLernon said because of the early morning drinking culture, a number of people would gather outside and whilst the bar was setting up for the day ahead, they had been allowed in.
“Sometimes these cultures are hard to tackle,” said Mr McLernon.
Judge McNally said such offences could lead to pubs being closed down or licences suspended and he adjourned the case until a later date to check the legislation.