A further nine warning letters and five Immediate Prohibition Notices have been issued to businesses in Thanet that have remained open* in defiance of new requirements to close during the coronavirus pandemic. One persistent location breached its Prohibition Notice and further legal action is being considered.
Since late March, when the new National Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020 came into force, it has become an offence for many types of businesses including bars, clubs, and pubs to stay open. In light of the directive to close, grants are available for many of the affected businesses and almost £22m of Government funding has already been awarded locally.
The majority of businesses in Thanet are adhering to the rules and have been closed however, a very small number have continued to operate. At the end of March, a total of 14 warning letters and three Immediate Prohibition Notices were issued. Today’s number brings the total number of businesses under investigation for being in breach to 28. These businesses are contacted by Thanet District Council’s Public Protection and Licensing Team and initially a warning letter is issued, then further investigations are carried out. Where a premise is found to have contravened the legislation or continues to do so, an Immediate Prohibition Notice is served.
Thanet District Council Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Safer Neighbourhoods, Cllr Helen Whitehead, said: ”With the announcement of a further three weeks of the current restrictions I cannot stress enough how important it is that we continue to observe the rules. I’d like to extend my thanks to all of the businesses that have supported these measures and closed accordingly. The fact that five more businesses have had to be served with Prohibition Notices is a huge disappointment. We have a collective responsibility to protect each other during this pandemic by staying at home. Businesses which stay open and therefore encourage others to risk their health and the health of others will be forced to close.
“We know that this is a worrying time for many business owners and want to remind them that there are grants available for small businesses and those in the retail, hospitality and leisure sector. We have already started transferring money to those who’ve contacted us and would urge all eligible businesses not to delay their application. We’re here to help, and if you are unsure of what your business may be entitled to please contact us and we will do all we can to help and advise.
”I’d also like to thank those members of the public who have contacted us to let us know of businesses they have observed breaching the regulations. We have a collective duty to keep the most vulnerable amongst us safe, and ensuring that we follow guidelines is the best way to do that. I could not be more grateful to businesses and individuals who are following the guidance to stay home and save lives; to those who are finding themselves struggling to do so, please, think of the most vulnerable individual you know and consider their need for protection before anything else.
“A huge well done to everyone who is following guidelines and keeping our community safe during these difficult times. I know how hard it is, and I applaud you for your efforts in making sure that we are all protected.”
Working closely with Kent Police, council officers continue to investigate all allegations of businesses staying open. There are exceptions and retailers such as supermarkets, pharmacies and laundry facilities can continue to trade as usual, with the appropriate social distancing measures in place.
When a premise is found to have broken the rules, they may also be liable for an unlimited fine, a Fixed Penalty Notice or face prosecution. In the case of licensed premises, they will be referred to the council’s Licensing Sub-Committee where they could have their licence to supply alcohol removed.
Anyone who is aware of a public house, restaurant, or cafe that is trading, or a workplace where people do not appear to be observing the new social distancing guidelines, can report it by phoning 101 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
The exception is if the breach observed is on a building site, then it must be reported to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) using this form.
*As these are ongoing investigations it is not possible to identify the businesses by name at this time.