THE owner of a bar where a ‘40-man brawl’ ensued outside has claimed it was nothing to do with them and they even rejected them from entering.

The pub formerly known as the Leigh Arms was celebrating its rebirth as the Sky Lounge on April 2, with a fire-eater performing – something the boss has since apologised for.

James Hazlett, owner of Sky Lounge, has said that Greater Manchester Police’s view that they have ‘a very poor attitude towards public safety’ is unfair.

The King Street venue even turned away dozens of those later involved in the scrap which has resulted in an affray investigation, James claimed.

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Leigh Journal: Sky Lounge is a nightclub in the former Leigh Arms buildingSky Lounge is a nightclub in the former Leigh Arms building (Image: Sky Lounge)

Prior to the events in the early hours of April 2, on March 19 a ‘known offender’ was seen carrying a metal bar outside the premises in an ‘aggressive manner’, according to a police report. He was later arrested, GMP confirmed.

The police report came to light after the Sky Lounge applied to extend their 2am cut-off for the sale of alcohol to 4am for a weekend event on April 22 and April 23.

Wigan Council’s licensing sub committee was due to decide on the matter on April 19, but the application was withdrawn at the last minute as a result of a last-minute change of designated premises supervisor from the building owner. 

GMP had objected to the pub’s request in the interests of the prevention of crime, disorder and public safety. Their licensing team put together a report listing the recent incidents at the establishment as reasons for the council to reject the application.

Leigh Journal: Inside the new Sky Lounge nightclub on King StreetInside the new Sky Lounge nightclub on King Street (Image: Sky Lounge)

“The fight actually happened in the middle of the road where the traffic lights are,” James Hazlett told the Local Democracy Reporting Service. “It actually dispersed itself, there was no police presence.

“The guy on March 19 was in our venue and he ended up having a fight in the toilets so we ejected him from the venue. As door staff took him to the door, he was abusive and tried to swing at us on the way out.

“As he went out he said he was coming back. Two minutes later he walked back with a two-foot steel bar.

“The two door staff at Cafe Stella (next door) ran out the door and got hold of him and pinned him down. We (James and his door staff) jumped in to give them a hand. 

“We kept hold of him until the police arrived. All I’ve noticed is that as soon as we rang the police they linked these incidents to the premises. 

“This is unjustified and unfair. We took the Leigh Arms and spent £15,000 doing it all up.

“It was the grand opening of the Sky Lounge when we had the fire-breather performing and she did have her own liability licence for it. We barricaded off [where she was performing] and we stood on each side of the barrier. 

“We didn’t direct people onto the road, we just stopped traffic coming past us. People took it upon themselves to go past the gap in the barrier.

“We do apologise for that and it was stupidity from our side.”

Leigh Journal: The club boss has apologised for the fire eaterThe club boss has apologised for the fire eater (Image: Sky Lounge)

He continued: “We are trying to put our own stamp on the pub. We rarely have any problems here and two of those incidents weren’t our fault.”

The police report said the fire-eater incident ‘completely ignored public safety and potentially put pedestrians and customers from their own venue at risk’. GMP cited the fire breather – as well as the fight and metal bar incidents – as reasons to oppose the hours extension application.

Despite this, Sky Lounge’s boss, who has previous experience running pubs and bars in Liverpool, says police objections won’t deter him from applying for later licences in the future. He believes that bringing in his own door staff, adding a dress code policy to reduce capacity and renovating the venue are all a testament to his plan to improve safety and welfare for his customers.