THE First Minister says the boss of a Greenock bar has put lives at risk after blatantly ignoring urgent health advice to close down.

Cheers, which is run by businessman Ian Ellis, is at the centre of a coronavirus controversy after it opened as normal on Saturday.

There was uproar when the pub continued to trade just hours after Prime Minister Boris Johnson instructed all bars, restaurants, clubs and other public premises to close to help tackle the spread of the deadly virus.

The shutdown to try and limit the spread of the deadly COVID-19 infection was adhered to across the country - but brazenly flouted by the West Stewart Street pub.

Onlookers in the town centre were stunned to see drinkers flocking into the bar and supping pints.

Police and the authorities received several calls of complaint but were not in a position to intervene as the no-opening instruction announced on Friday evening was advisory and not yet enforced by law.

Officers were later called to the premises early in the evening after a brawl broke out, with one man arrested.

Videos circulated on social media showing what appeared to be a fight outside spilling onto the road and another clip showed a police van and several uniformed officers in attendance, both pictured.

Footage was also filmed of a member of the public angrily remonstrating with Mr Ellis and bar patrons, calling them 'idiots' as they stood outside the front door.

As the footage circulated online, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon condemned the decision taken by Mr Ellis to ignore the warnings and stay open.

Ms Sturgeon said on Twitter: "My thanks to the vast majority of pubs that have complied with the request to close.

"I’m seeing some suggestions on here that a small minority might not be complying.

"If that’s true, make no mistake...lives are at risk as a result.

"Please do the right thing now."

Mr Ellis was also heavily criticised by Inverclyde Council, who said: "The owner of this bar needs to start complying immediately.

"He’s potentially putting his customers and staff in danger.

"Worse than that he is also putting every person his customers and staff then come into contact with in danger."

One of the members of the public who contacted the Tele said: "This pub is a disgrace and should lose its licence over this.

"To ignore all these dire warnings is crass stupidity and sheer greed.

"The management and people in there drinking away should be ashamed of themselves."

When the Tele contacted the bar there was no answer.

Several police vehicles returned to the pub again yesterday afternoon and it was closed down.

Around ten punters were chucked out the bar after three uniformed officers arrived with paperwork just after 12.30pm. It is understood Mr Ellis was not present at the time.

He had told media on Saturday: "We’re going to stay open until it becomes unsafe to do so or we’re forced to close.”

A Police Scotland spokesman said: “We can confirm we enforced an emergency closure notice under the Licensing Scotland Act on a licensed premises in West Stewart Street, Greenock, on the grounds of public safety following reports of disorder at the premises around 6pm on 21 March.”

Police Scotland's Deputy Chief Constable Malcolm Graham said the force obtained further legal advice yesterday and he had 'instructed officers to serve emergency closure orders on any licensed premises which refuse to comply, on the grounds of the threat posed to public safety'.

Meanwhile officers told the Telegraph that enquiries are 'ongoing' after they attended the reports of an assault at Cheers around 6pm on Saturday, adding that one man suffered minor injuries and a 50-year-old male was arrested.

Local police chiefs failed last March in an attempt to shut Cheers down following a string of alleged violent incidents and disturbances.

They wanted to revoke Mr Ellis' licence, accusing him of being 'uncooperative, unprofessional and obstructive' and describing him as 'unfit' to be a landlord.

But Inverclyde Licensing Board chair Councillor Ronnie Ahlfeld said then that the board did 'not believe there was sufficient evidence to revoke the licence on this occasion'.

The Tele revealed earlier this month how the pub boss is facing prosecution after being charged with driving his Ferrari dangerously in the town.

Prosecutors say that Ellis, 44, was behind the wheel of his car on October 14 last year when he overtook another vehicle on Brougham Street in the face of oncoming traffic.

He pleaded not guilty at Greenock Sheriff Court and is due to appear in court on the matter on May 12, ahead of a trial scheduled for June.

Emergency legislation is to be introduced in the coming days to give the government the power to close pubs who do not comply with the coronavirus public health advice.