The Marne Inn owner to shut Thorley Park pub in wake of police drugs raid
The owner of a Bishop’s Stortford pub that was the target of a police drugs raid has made the “difficult decision” to call last orders for good on Saturday (Sept 11).
Several dozen officers swooped on The Marne Inn at 5pm on Friday August 20 as part of an ongoing investigation into suspected drug use and supply at the Thorley Neighbourhood Centre venue.
Phones and electronic devices were seized, but no substances were found and no arrests were made. Police said the operation was launched after concerns were raised and intelligence was gathered.
Enquiries are continuing, but owner Aaron Fennell announced this week he was quitting the pub after 11 years at the helm.
“I think it’s the best decision for my part,” he told the Indie. “The reputation of the pub has been dented – unfairly – and there’s no coming back. It’s now an unprofitable business.”
Aaron said he was sad to have to make the decision as he had built up a loyal customer base and had turned around the pub, which first opened in 1984.
“When I took over it was rock bottom,” he said. “I’ve spent an absolute fortune.”
The 36-year-old revealed last month he had been off sick with depression for eight weeks when he was forced to close during the Euro 2020 football championships in June after police and East Herts Council environmental health officers criticised his Covid-19 safety measures.
“My health has been massively affected,” he said. “I’ve got cystic fibrosis and that’s never affected my running of the pub, but this has.”
He added he felt sad for customers who have supported him all through the troubled times. “We’ve got some real core locals and the pub is fundamental to their daily life,” he said.
And when asked if he felt those behind a letter circulated around the Thorley Park estate urging residents to report incidents at the pub had won he said: "The people behind this may think they've won, but they don't realise how many lives they've affected along the way. To me, that's not what winning is about."
Aaron, who owns the pub and The Crown at Elsenham through his company Pubhub Co, is now looking ahead to the “next stage in his career”, taking a more active role heading up The Crown. "I've got to think of me and that's why I've got to be positive," he said.
A spokeswoman for Hertfordshire Constabulary police said Aaron’s decision to close was nothing to do with their investigation. “Our aim is to work in partnership with all our licensed venues to resolve any issues as and when they arise,” she added.