'You have to obey the rules': Shropshire pubs warned over social distancing after complaints
Shropshire's pub owners are being warned to enforce social distancing measures or risk losing their licences, after "a number or reports" about premises last weekend.
Telford & Wrekin Council said its officers will be out "routinely visiting premises to check that they are Covid safe", after the complaints.
The authority has written to landlords about the matter, and while it says "there are many of our licensees out there who are acting in a responsible manner", Councillor Richard Overton, Telford & Wrekin Council’s cabinet member for enforcement, said they do not want to risk the type of local lockdown seen in other parts of the country.
Shropshire Council has also issued a reminder to pubs and the public.
The Telford & Wrekin letter said "following the weekend of August 1, Public Protection Officers have received a number of reports of premises where social distancing measures were either poor, or that there appeared to be little or no controls in place from some pub operators."
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Councillor Overton said: “We have seen what has happened to other parts of the country resulting in their lockdown and we do not want that to happen here.
“We are taking a robust approach to try and make sure venues offer an environment in which our residents can enjoy themselves safely. We are reminding licensees of their responsibilities and the consequences of not fulfilling them."
He also urged the public to do their bit and follow social distancing guidelines.
"In turn, it is also important that customers play their part if we are to defeat this virus," added Councillor Overton.
"We must continue to support our local businesses, whether they be shops, bars or restaurants, but we must do it safely. We must do this by continuing with the basics; by keeping our distance, wearing a face covering whenever possible and by washing our hands as much as possible.”
The letter to landlords sets out the expectation on premises, stating: "We are reminding licensees that it is their responsibility to ensure that when customers are indoors, that all patrons are seated at tables that meet social distancing guidelines. In addition, if customers are outside in beer gardens or licensed car parks, they again are either seated at a table, or are standing in clearly defined areas that permit social distancing.
"Officers are now routinely visiting premises to check that they are Covid safe. On any visit, if officers feel that premises have insufficient measures in place and there is little confidence in how the premises are managed, public protection will be minded to take enforcement action, which may lead to the closure of premises and/or a review of the premise licence.
"We want to make it clear to the licensed trade of the need to fully adhere to the government guidance. By doing so, this will ensure that our bars and restaurants continue to remain open.
"We are asking licensees to do their utmost to mitigate the risks. It has taken considerable effort from many of you to finally reopen. We do not want to have to take further action but if we continue to receive reports of poor management and lack of social distancing controls we will. It must be remembered that we are still dealing with a pandemic and ensuring public safety is our primary concern."
Councillor Dean Carroll, Shropshire Council's cabinet member for adult social care, public health and climate change, said: "I am sure people have seen the headlines about a number of coronavirus cases linked to gatherings at pubs where people have ignored the social distancing guidance.
"Outbreaks like this are going to happen if people don’t take the right precautions.
“Local pubs and bars have worked tirelessly to put measures in place to keep staff and visitors safe. Customers also must play their part by following the guidance.
"Please follow any signage or instructions, and remember to observe social distancing – that’s 2m where possible, or 1m as long as you follow the extra mitigating measures to keep yourself and others safe.
“If you feel unwell or have coronavirus symptoms, please stay at home to protect yourself, your loved ones and everyone else.”