Northumberland publican claims 'unfair' treatment after pub closed due to Covid breaches
A Northumberland publican forced to close due to Covid breaches believes the venue was unfairly singled out.
The Wharton Arms, in Bedlington, was served with a direction notice on Tuesday to close for 14 days, to be reviewed in seven days.
Health officers at Northumberland County Council said the pub posed a serious imminent risk to public health, by not putting in place the required Covid-19 secure measures.
It followed a police visit on Saturday while the pub was showing the Newcasle United v Burnley match on TV.
Among the issues spotted were: failure to display NHS Track and Trace QR code; groups of multiple households; people without face coverings around the venue, or not wearing face covering correctly; no social distancing between individuals or groups; failure to take reasonable Covid precautionary measures, eg one way system.
It became the first pub in Northumberland to be forced to close.
James Skinner, pub backer, said: “We feel we have been made an example of and very unfairly treated.
"Rather than eight people losing their jobs, which is the likely outcome, they could have given us a warning and told us to put our house in order and clarified the rules about exactly what we should be doing.
"If it was a serious and immediate risk to public health then why did the two police officers who also attended take no action? They were here for half an hour and fined no-one.
"We’re also annoyed that they visited at 5.30pm to close the pub down and it was on the council’s social media half an hour later. Some of the staff didn’t even know what had happened.
"We have held our hands up about the QR code and said we will fix that.
"We have had our own track and trace system in place which is probably more effective than the government’s.
"If people tell us they are together because they’re in a social bubble how can we possibly know they’re not? And how do we force someone to wear a mask when they go to the toilet? Surely it’s a matter for the police?
"We feel this could have been handled for more amicably than this draconian measure where we’ve been made the scapegoat.”
Northumberland County Council has been contacted for comment.