East Northants pub landlady "feels victimised" after being hit with £5,000 fine for Covid breaches

She said she would stay shut if there was another lockdown because of 'grey areas'

Wednesday, 8th September 2021, 12:20 pm
Updated Wednesday, 8th September 2021, 12:38 pm
The King's Head, Wadenhoe.

The landlady of a pub in an East Northants village says she's been made to feel like a criminal after being slapped with a £5,000 fine for Covid breaches.

Andrea Neal, who runs The King's Head in picturesque Wadenhoe on the River Nene, has hit out at 'grey areas' after being prosecuted for flouting rules in April and May.

North Northamptonshire Council took the 55-year-old to court over breaches of rules after Step 2 of the roadmap to easing lockdown, when pubs were allowed to open outdoors.

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And after pleading guilty the landlady said she will be appealing her sentence after magistrates in Wellingborough fined her £5,000 and told her to pay costs of £1,472.79.

She said: "I am not somebody who has not taken Covid seriously. I've had it twice.

"Every part of my building had sanitiser. I spent £1,500 putting screens around the bar.

"I feel like I've been made out to be a criminal."

North Northamptonshire Council said the charges related to legislation at the time that said that food and drink must be served to customers who are seated outdoors, adding that the pub had breached restrictions a total of five times over four different days between April 24 and May 5 this year.

They said that breaches included customers being seated inside the pub, customers eating and drinking inside garden pods on the patio area and customers queuing to be served at an outside bar area, adding that contraventions occurred even after Ms Neal had been advised by council officers, warned by investigating officers and caught by the police.

Ms Neal said she was told by a police officer they were okay because they were trading as a tea room, the Old Barn, and said the 'customers' found inside included her own children.

She claimed other pubs in the county who took a similar approach were not penalised and that customers would bypass measures to stop them from getting into the pods. The pods were later removed from the patio. Rules said outdoor pods had to be at least 50 per cent open. Council officers said they were greater than 80 per cent enclosed.

Ms Neal said: "I feel like I was victimised. We went to the council from day one and thought the pods were compliant.

"The pubs have been a grey area since day one.

"When the rule of six came in we thought the pods were a really good idea. In the end they were a nightmare.

"If there was ever another lockdown there is absolutely no way I would open my pub.

"It's more hassle than it's worth. There were so many grey areas."

Cllr David Brackenbury, North Northamptonshire Council’s executive member for growth and regeneration, said: “It is acknowledged that hospitality businesses have been hard hit by the Covid pandemic, but the legislation was in place to protect staff and customers and to minimise the risk of spreading the virus.

“Most other businesses have tried their best to comply with the changing Covid legislation, have listened to advice from officers and when found to be at fault have quickly taken steps to rectify the situation.”