Pubs face being shut or fined up to £10k as huge queues threaten to break Covid rules

PUBS face being shut or fined up to £10,000 for failing to enforce coronavirus regulations. 

Officials have warned that venues must obey the rules after huge queues were spotted outside boozers yesterday.

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Pubs and restaurants finally reopened yesterday after four months of lockdown – but can only serve customers outdoors. 

The easing of restrictions prompted huge queues outside boozers yesterday, with Soho in Central London packed with punters spilling out onto the street. 

Pictures also show hundreds of Brits queueing outside pubs in Manchester, Sunderland, Burnley and Birmingham. Councils have since pledged to set up enforcement squads to patrol queues and look for rule-breakers. 

It comes after at least 100 people queued outside The Oak Inn in Coventry after it reopened at midnight on Sunday.

Coventry Council have launched a probe after claiming the venue may have breached restrictions by “having difficulties with large queues or unmanageable amounts of visitors”.

Though the queue formed on the street, which lies outside the pub’s premises, the council said its licensing team could use a “wide range of powers” if the venue was found to be breaking Covid regulations. 

Government guidance states that venues face a Fixed Penalty Notice starting at £1,000 for failing to enforce rules such as social distancing. This can rise to £10,000 upon repeat offences. 

The local council in Maidstone, Kent also said that pubs face a "fixed penalty notice, prohibition notice, license review or a combination” for failing to enforce the rules. 

Under the current regulations, pubs are obliged to encourage punters to follow social distancing guidelines. 

But industry leaders have stressed that queues were inevitable amid huge demand and punters needing to check in with NHS Test and Trace at the door.   

Emma McClarkin, the chief executive of the British Beer and Pubs Association, called on the government and councils to “show some pragmatism” amid huge demand from customers. 

She told the Daily Telegraph: “We hope that all councils will approach the guidance in the spirit of assisting us to find a way to open, and open safely, not finding ways to use it to shut us down."

Professor Adam Finn, a member of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, today called on Brits to continue following social distancing rules as restrictions ease.

Asked about the use of beer gardens, which was allowed again in England from Monday, Prof Finn said people should view the easing of Covid restrictions "in relative terms".

"If I did (go to a beer garden) I would certainly avoid contact with other people," he told BBC Breakfast.

"I think the risks of transmissions outside are relatively low but not if you start coming into close contact with people… if you cough or sing or really basically confront someone in the face.

"If you happen to have the virus, and the virus is still circulating, then infections will occur.

"People need to see this in relative terms. It's not like it's over and we can all go back to normal, because otherwise there will be risks."  

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