A PUB landlord has had to pay £1,000 after his plans to launch a bus service for his customers stalled.
Paul Sweeney, of the Morris Dancer in Kelsall, had intended to collect and drop off local residents over the festive period to increase trade and combat the threat of drink-driving.
But he was surprised when Chester City Council’s licensing team contacted him, two days after the story appeared in the Chronicle, telling him he would be breaking the law if he continued the service.
And despite having the full backing of local members of Cheshire Constabulary, he has been forced to rethink his plans and pay the four-figure sum.
He said: “Chester City Council’s licensing authority told us that basically we were offering a grace and favour system where we would gain financially for offering somebody a lift.
“They warned us that if we continued then we would be breaking the law so despite all the bookings we had taken, we decided it was not worth the risk.
“It’s been very confusing as we went to the police, as we thought they were the correct authority, and they said ‘great, fantastic’ and backed us.
“It is going to cost me an additional £1,000 but we have now received all the official paperwork so we are going to relaunch the service soon.”
Cheshire Constabulary spokeswoman Shelley Williams said officers had backed the scheme because it helped tackle the problem of drink driving and that they had not realised the pub was launching a would-be taxi service.
She said: “Cheshire police have supported this scheme on the understanding that the service provided is not for hire or reward and therefore is not a taxi service as defined by law.
“The initiative is aimed at reducing the risk of drivers taking to the wheel when they have been drinking, especially over the festive season.”
The city council’s licensing team confirmed they stepped in after receiving a complaint from a fully licensed private hire operator about the service being offered by the Morris Dancer.