“It was a scenario that just got out of control for me”
A pub landlord says there was nothing he could do to stop hundreds of bikers turning up to a funeral he was hosting at his pub.
Neil Henderson has apologised after he was fined for breaching Covid-19 rules following the mass gathering at The Gate Hangs Well in Syston.
Police were called after nearly 500 bikers started arriving at the pub, in Fosse Way, on Friday afternoon for the funeral of the president of a biker gang.
Mr Henderson, who has run the pub for 12 years, said the event had been planned for 30 people, as allowed within the coronavirus regulations, but then more and more bikers started to arrive until between 400 and 500 were present and the situation became unmanageable.
The police said he could be fined up to £10,000.
Mr Henderson told LeicestershireLive the funeral was for an acquaintance who was the president of a motorcycle club.
He said: “He had terminal cancer and before he died he asked me if he could hold the funeral here.
“The organisers had erected a marquee set out for 30 people with the chairs separated as per the regulations.
“The pub was closed to the general public and tables were set out (in a nearby field) for anyone coming to pay their respects.
“We were told maybe 50 or 60 extra people might turn up.
“We didn’t expect so many people would come to do that.
“I can’t believe how many bikers turned up.
“There was no way I could stop it from going on.
“It was a scenario that just got out of control for me.”
Mr Henderson said the police turned up when the funeral service started.
He said: “They didn’t really want to get involved.
“The council asked me to close at about 4pm which I did.
“Between myself and the police, we asked the organisers to respectfully disperse in separate small groups.
“Right at the very end the police said they would fine me but I haven’t had it through yet so I don’t know how much it will be because I haven’t had it through yet.
“I want to say something because this is my livelihood and I don’t want my staff to lose their jobs.
“I feel stressed and depressed about this.”
Mr Henderson added: “I would like to apologise wholeheartedly for the circumstances that occurred.
“My decision to allow the funeral to take place on the pubs ground was led by a personal friendship with the deceased.
“Perhaps I was naive in thinking the numbers attending would be manageable.
“The tables were relocated into the fields to allow for better social distancing and the pub closed to the public at the request of the organisers as it was a private funeral.
“The police were in attendance from the start of the funeral service and remained present until the last motorcyclist left.
“Once it was clear that the Covid regulations could no longer be met and after discussing with the local council the premises was voluntarily closed.
“The mourners made the decision to leave in stages in order to minimise any further disruption to the local area.
“This was by no means meant to be an organised event by the pub and I apologise again for any upset caused.”
Leicestershire Police said the bikers were asked to disperse but gradually to minimise the traffic impact of such a large volume of vehicles being released onto the roads.
Officers said they also were aware they were dealing with a funeral while trying to handle the situation.
The pub is run by Everard’s brewery which says it is investigating the matter.
A company spokeswoman said: “It is very disappointing that one business owner has held an event which has not followed the guidelines and we are currently investigating the matter, cooperating fully with Charnwood Police and the local licensing authority.
“It is most certainly not a reflection on our position nor that of other Everards pubs.
“We and our business owners are taking the rules very seriously and will continue to do so as we do not condone any activity that goes against government advice.”
She added: “While we own all of the buildings, all Everards pubs are run individually by independent business owners.
“We do offer support and as a local family business the health, safety and wellbeing of our business owners, their employees, their customers and their local community has always been at the heart of what we do even before the current pandemic.
“This has only increased since March and we are proud that our business owners have worked very hard to ensure that they are running covid safe premises which still offer a great experience.”