A pub will have to pay almost £2,500 after the manager was found to be watering down spirits.

Jia Tong Chen, 41, manager of the Dunham Arms on Chester Road, Dunham on the Hill, pleaded guilty at the first opportunity to all charges in respect of himself and Dunham Arms Limited of selling spirits which had been watered down.

Chester Magistrates Court heard on Wednesday, February 17 there had been no malicious intent behind the offences, and they had been carried out of a wish not to waste alcohol when refilling bottles.

Chen and the business were guilty of the same set of nine offences each, with alcoholic drinks found to contain less alcohol than stated on the label.

For example, a bottle of Scottish Leader Whiskey contained 8.1 per cent less alcohol than the 40 per cent on the label, a bottle of Jack Daniels Tennessee Whiskey contained 5.2 per cent less alcohol than the 40 per cent stated on the label, and a bottle of Captain Morgan's Spiced Gold Spirit Drink had 3.1 per cent less alcohol than the 35 per cent on the label.

Prosecuting on behalf of Cheshire West and Chester Council, Ian Moore said Chen was the manager of the Dunham Arms and responsible for the day-to-day running of the business.

Officers from the council visited the Dunham Arms on November 6, 2019, and used electronic devices to check the beers and spirits, discovering the alcohol strength was less than it should have been.

Chen initially denied any wrongdoing when asked about the discrepancies by officers, but then changed his view and said every time he refilled the bottles, he rinsed them out with a shot or two of water.

He said he would not do it again and later emailed the officers apologising for what he had done.

In correspondence through his solicitors, Chen said he had been manager of the pub since 2015 and had been adding water to rinse bottles since early 2019, but no more than a couple of shot measures.

He did not consider he was being dishonest, just careful, and was "just trying to save money", adding he "simply did not think anything of it".

Defending, Iain Simkin said there was no risk to the public health – indeed, he remarked, they might have been slightly better off.

District Judge Nicholas Sanders replied: "I don't think it was a public service!"

Mr Simkin added the financial gain from the watered down spirits was minimal, given the pub would primarily sell other alcoholic beverages as it operated mainly as a Chinese takeaway.

The financial gain totalled "about £50", and was not done maliciously but mainly to get the alcohol residue from the bottles.

Chen had helped out in the local community and was "of exemplary character".

The pub had not fared too badly during the lockdown as it had been able to operate as a takeaway, Mr Simkin added.

DJ Sanders said: "Although these offences are borne out of the Food Safety Act, the reality is that this is not under food safety, it is a case of protecting public confidence in the sale of alcohol.

"When a member of the public orders a glass of gin and tonic, they have every right to expect that the gin will be of the advertised strength. That is the harm that has been caused in this case.

"Having said that, I accept the fact the company and Chen were not doing what they did to create excess profit. I also accept the company and Chen are of previous good character. Chen is clearly a valued member of the community in which he lives, and the business clearly provides a valuable service."

The Dunham Arms Ltd company was fined £125 for each offence, totalling £1,125, with Chen fined £40 for each offence, totalling £360.

The company was ordered to pay £620 costs and a £113 victim surcharge, with Chen to pay £200 costs and a £36 victim surcharge.

The total sum to be paid was £2,464.