Punch Pub Company guilty of fire safety breaches

A national pub group has been ordered to pay over £17,000 in fines and costs after pleading guilty to serious breaches of fire safety legislation following a prosecution brought by the London Fire Brigade.

Punch Pub Company Limited (formerly known as Spirit Group Limited) admitted guilt on two contraventions of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005. Sentencing occurred on Thursday 3 September 2009 at the City of Westminster Magistrates Court.

The Barley Mow Public House on Duke Street, London, W1K was inspected by fire officers on 24 September 2004. The third and fourth floors of the premises were being used for residential purposes. A number of fire safety failings were identified during the inspection but, the main concern for the Brigade was the serious risk users of the fourth floor would be exposed to in the event of fire. From the fourth floor, the distance for persons to get to a fire exit was too great and the fire escape they would have had to use had inadequate fire protection. The same risk to the fourth floor use had been identified by a fire risk assessment commissioned in 2003 but this had been disregarded by Punch Pub Company Limited. Because of the fire risk, a prohibition notice was served by the Brigade that restricted the fourth floor rooms to be used for storage purposes only.

Officers visited the premises on 15 October 2007 and found that a room on the fourth floor was being used as living quarters. The escape route from the fourth floor was also partially blocked by combustible items on the third floor.

Assistant Commissioner for fire safety regulation Steve Turek said: “It is important all premises owners and operators have a fire risk assessment and even more importantly act upon its findings in a timely manner. The prohibition notice in this case was served to ensure the safety of people using the premises. Notices must be taken very seriously and followed explicitly.”

Punch Pub Company Limited operates several pub chains and owns over 900 outlets nationwide. Punch Pub Company is a subsidiary of and the managed arm of Punch Taverns Plc. Punch Taverns Plc is the largest pub and bar operator in the United Kingdom, with around 8,300 leased, tenanted and managed pubs.