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Llanelli bar has licence application turned down due to criminal links

Stamps, John Street, Llanelli (pic: Richard Youle)

THE OWNER of a newly-reopened bar in Llanelli whose criminal convictions were discussed in a council licensing meeting is to appeal a refusal decision.

Ethan Smith told a Carmarthenshire Council licensing sub-committee that were it to reject the licence application, it “would probably be incredibly difficult” for the venue, Stamps, to continue.

After being empty for three years, Stamps re-opened last month with Mr Smith the new leaseholder. The planned re-opening on March 31 received press coverage, which stated that a man called Jordan Parry would be the bar manager. Another employee, Aaron Coelho, was photographed behind the bar.

It was Mr Coelho who applied to have the premises licence transferred from a third party to him and to become the venue’s designated premises supervisor.

Aaron Coelho, of Stamps, Llanelli, pictured in February this year ahead of the venue’s reopening (pic: Rob Dalling)

Dyfed-Powys Police objected on several grounds. It said Jordan Dale Parry was one of nine people who had admitted to a conspiracy to supply cocaine in 2020 following a five-month undercover police investigation, called Operation Elegant. Police said the Class A drug – more than 2kg of which was seized – was transported between Swansea, Pontarddulais and Llanelli.

Sergeant Ben Ashton told the sub-committee that Mr Parry, of Llanelli, who was jailed for three years and four months, was described as the main perpetrator’s right-hand man. He also said the main perpetrator’s girlfriend, who acted as a courier and benefited from the illegal activities, was the sister of Mr Coelho [Laura Coelho].

Sergeant Ashton said Mr Parry had 11 convictions and that leaseholder Mr Smith, although he had no involvement in the drugs case, had claimed ownership of items which police had seized as part of Operation Elegant.

He also said Mr Smith had 12 criminal convictions – dating from 2018 to 2020 – and that Mr Coelho, who also had no involvement in the drugs case, had one conviction from 2015.

Sergeant Ashton said he believed Mr Coelho was being put forward as the applicant by Mr Smith and Mr Parry as there would be less likelihood of a police objection. He said the circumstances were exceptional and that the prevention of crime would be undermined.

Sergeant Ashton also said seven incidents at Stamps had been reported to police in April, ranging from an intoxicated female fighting with door staff to a man alleged to be fighting with everyone.

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Mr Smith addressed the sub-committee to say that Mr Parry would not be working for Stamps as his probation officer had told him it would not be an option due to his prison licence conditions. This, said Mr Smith, had only come to light after the press coverage stating Mr Parry would be the bar manager.

Mr Smith added that Mr Coelho had not spoken to or associated with his sister following her involvement in the conspiracy to supply drugs and that he “strongly disagreed” with her actions. He said neither he nor Mr Coelho had any involvement in Operation Elegant but did know or were related to two of the nine defendants. He said it was “extremely unfair” for him and Mr Coelho to be “penalised for the actions of other people”.

Referring to the items seized by police, Mr Smith said this referred to a vehicle which was his and did not belong to the conspiracy’s main perpetrator. He said the reason Mr Coelho was the applicant was that he would be solely responsible for the management of the business, as well as living above it.

Mr Smith said most of his own convictions were motoring-related and that since his last one in 2020 he had opened three e-cigarette shops, got married, bought a house and become a father to two children. He said: “It’s fair to say I’m in a much more stable position than I was three years ago.” He added: “I would say that I’m a reformed character.”

Mr Smith then gave an explanation behind each of the seven incidents at Stamps, and said he felt it was a small number given the number of customers who visited.

“This is a new business with a lot to learn, but with the help and support of police and the licensing department I am sure we can make it work,” he said.

Mr Smith also said he felt it was unfair that he had been only given two days to respond to the police’s detailed objection letter.

Mr Coelho, who used to help his father operate a nightclub in Ammanford, was asked what would happen if his sister got back in touch with him. He replied: “I’m not interested – I’m doing my thing, moving forward.”

Stamps, Llanelli (pic: Richard Youle)

The council’s legal officer, Robert Edgecombe, than asked Mr Smith what would happen to Stamps, which has 10 employees, if the applications were refused.

“We would appeal it,” said Mr Smith. “It would probably be incredibly difficult to carry on.”

The sub-committee retired and later published its decision to refuse both licence applications.

It said it had attached weight to the views expressed by police, and pointed out that Stamps, in John Street, was located in a crime and disorder hotspot.

“The sub-committee noted that the police rarely objected to such applications and that the convictions outlined in the police evidence were both serious and numerous,” said the decision notice.

“There were clear connections between the applicant and those linked with organised crime. This, combined with the recent incidents at the premises suggests to the sub-committee that exceptional circumstances did exist in this case.”

Mr Smith told the Local Democracy Reporting Service that an appeal was being sent to the magistrates’ court, and reiterated his view that he and Mr Coelho felt they were being penalised for other people’s actions. He said Stamps remained open as normal.