A PUB where drug dealers unwittingly sold cocaine to undercover police officers has been handed back its alcohol licence.

The Leather Bottle, in Shrub End, Colchester, lost its licence in December 2021 due to concerns it was at the “heart of a large scale cocaine business”.

According to an Essex Police report, cocaine was used in plain sight and officers deployed to the pub between June and November last year bought drugs several times.

But an application made by new landlady Maxine Burch has now been approved by Colchester Council after “very careful” deliberations.

The council’s licensing subcommittee stated it carefully considered evidence before allowing the venue in Shrub End Road to resume selling alcohol until 11pm, Monday to Sunday.

According to a report, Ms Burch agreed a series of conditions with Essex Police and environment protection, including submitting a written drugs policy and keeping a drugs safe at the pub for storing confiscated illegal substances.

A decision notice issued by the council stated it accepts the applicant’s contention there is no link between herself and the previous licence holder.

The notice reads: “It [the sub-committee] paid particular attention to the applicant’s intention to develop the premises as a family-friendly venue.

“However, due to the seriousness of incidents associated with this premises and its clientele in the past, the sub-committee is keen to ensure the licensing objectives are upheld and supported as rigorously as possible to prevent previous issues being repeated.

“The sub-committee was pleased to note the co-operation with the responsible authorities that was evident throughout the application and the comprehensive policies which had been presented prior to the hearing to offer reassurance to residents.”

Objections submitted to the council from residents were heard during Tuesday’s meeting, which expressed concern crime and anti-social behaviour could return as a result of granting the licence.

One read: “This seems to suggest that granting a licence may mean no lessons have been learned with regard to drugs.”

The sub-committee said it paid “particular attention” to the concerns when deliberating its decision.