Published: 07/08/2012 13:19 - Updated: 07/08/2012 13:24

Landlady feared a riot by Rangers fans

Licence board members will discuss application today
Licence board members will discuss application today

One hundred and fifty football supporters were illegally drinking in an Inverness pub before Caley Thistle took on Rangers in a crunch SPL match because the landlady feared "a riot" if she did not let them in.

The Chieftain Hotel’s licence could now come under threat after police officers arrived at the Millburn Road premises and found it teeming with Rangers fans before the televised football game on Sunday 26th February.

The bar is permitted to sell alcohol from 12.30pm but officers estimated that 150 people were in or outside the premises at 11.30am, with a fleet of coaches and mini-buses parked up.

A call was made to Northern Constabulary saying that a busload of supporters had gone into the Chieftain via a rear door and officers saw staff behind the main bar serving alcohol.

They spoke to the premises manager Elizabeth Lawson who admitted she had opened the doors to the supporters at 11am "to stop a riot."

The officers decided against shutting the bar because of the sheer weight of numbers but returned later in the day to inform Mrs Lawson she would be reported to the procurator fiscal for breaching licencing legislation.

Chief inspector Pamela Ross has now written to the Highland Licensing Board, which meets today (Tuesday), asking for it to review the Chieftain’s licence.

The match kicked-off at 12.45pm at the Tulloch Caledonian Stadium and more than 3000 away supporters had travelled to Inverness.

It was a high profile occasion because it was Rangers’s first away match after the club lurched into administration in February which led to its eventual liquidation.

Caley Thistle lost by four goals to one.

In a report to the board, the licensing standards officer Ian Cox said the well established hotel is owned by Punch Partnerships and Mrs Lawson had taken over as a tenant at the start of February.

Mr Cox said the large public bar and lounge had traditionally been "very popular" with Rangers and Celtic fans whenever the Old Firm played in the Highland Capital.

However, Mrs Lawson claimed she was unaware of the hotel’s popularity with football fans but Mr Cox said he expected her to have been fully briefed when she took over the business.

Mr Cox said she had also run the Blacksmiths bar in Culloden and turned it into a well respected family pub despite its previous rough local reputation.

He added the board had rejected an application from the now closed Portland Club – home to the city’s Rangers supporters club – which wanted to serve alcohol from 9am on the day of the match.

"It may well have been the case that with travel plans already made supporters clubs were going to try and seek out an alternative venue," states Mr Cox in the report.

Mrs Lawson could not be contacted for comment prior to the board meeting.

The board has the power to revoke or suspend licences, cut opening hours or issue a written warning.

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